In an interview with Gamesindusty.biz’s Steve Peterson, David DeMartini has made some interesting remarks regarding not only his territory of EA’s distribution platform Origin, but also some fairly stiff criticism of their competitor and still current king of PC digital distribution Valve’s Steam.
DeMartini begins the chat on the subject of Origin’s current state and had some promising numbers, for the financial sector if not consumers. He claims a jump from 1 million to over 13 million downloads, a 400% increase in sales to over $150 million in revenue, and boasting over 50 publishing partners in the industry. He says that they set out to make a 90+ Metacritic service like any good development team sets out to make a 90+ Metacritic game. He even mentioned Reddit by name as a place where his team finds places to improve. While I’m sure they strive to better themselves, one would be hard-pressed to please the r/gaming community that seems to run into those “by chance” bad moments on a daily basis simply because the community is so huge.
DeMartini said in coming months and years, Origin will strive to become a “better, dramatically better, and stickier” service on a quarter to quarter basis throughout the years. He then made it clear he didn’t want to necessarily directly compete in Steam’s arena but as a separate option for consumers to choose from. It seems the stickiness, however, is many gamers’ chief complaint about Origin. The fact that many of their favorite EA games are no longer on Steam but exclusive to the first party platform. That isn’t likely to change, but I think many gamers would prefer the previous setup. That may be the biggest hurdle for EA is figuring out how they can make people at the very least accept Origin widely as the place to go for EA titles and not just refusing to buy it because of previous stories regarding the service or personal experiences that may not be indicative of the current state of Origin. DeMartini admits that getting back dissatisfied customers can be difficult but did not seem especially worried about the task.
But it wasn’t all about sales numbers and not-so-consumer-focused conversation. Some of it was truly interesting news when it comes to indie titles. DeMartini said that there will be a policy that allows independent developers to, if they are successfully crowd-funded (which I have no clue what that would actually entail) they could use the Origin platform for 90 days with no fees taken by EA in sales. This, in theory, sounds like an exciting venture. There are plenty of games that if given 90 days of fee-free sales could make a boatload as successfully crowd-funded titles.
There was even a brief discussion of Origin becoming a cross-platform “hub” for gaming as we have as gamers become quite social creatures, albeit mostly over the internet. While there wasn’t a great deal of details on anything, it’s exciting to see another big player interested in coming together across platforms and letting the games take center stage in the gaming world, not platforms.
The biggest headline of the interview was yet to come, however. When asked about Steam’s seemingly world-famous cut-throat sales of 50-75% off entire publisher catalogs, DeMartini was quick to deny Origin’s desire to do similar things. He thinks it “cheapens intellectual property.” While I could understand the concept, he did not offer much of an alternative to Steam’s current model of drop-down, spring-up pricing that generally results in more word-of-mouth sales even when the price reduction is over. He said that he would like to develop a long-term relationship with the customer but didn’t seem to go into much detail on how that would save money a lot of gaming consumers seem so dead-set on saving in today’s economy. With game prices staying the same and our pockets getting thinner, sometimes Steam sales are nearly the only option.
Whatever is in store for Origin, DeMartini certainly made headlines with that quote and will surely prompt some people to revisit the EA service and see what’s so great about it these days. Some may still find themselves annoyed, some may be delightfully surprised in improvements made to the platform since its launch, but one thing is certain: Origin isn’t going anywhere.