How EA’s Origin Can Save Itself
The release of the Battlefield 3 multiplayer beta on PC has come with some pretty much universal disdain for the big orange “O” representing Electronic Arts’ new online game service, Origin. And so far, the criticism is probably well-deserved.
Origin represents the quiet but diligent progress of the video game industry toward becoming something that players, almost universally, don’t like. It’s another online account; it’s another system through which you have to buy your games. It’s more software that allows a corporation to track what you buy so it can more efficiently sell you things, and it’s another way in which the video games industry keeps tabs on you, tells you what you can and cannot do with games you purchase. It’s another sullen gatekeeper among an ever-increasing number of gatekeepers, all of whom are making gaming less convenient and less private. And none of these gatekeepers ever seem to have the actual gameplay experience in mind as they erect their walls against resale and piracy.
Gamers feel mishandled by the corporate system, and Origin makes an easy target for that ire. It’s logo even looks vaguely like a bulls-eye.
But it doesn’t have to be so, and Electronic Arts doesn’t need to draw the angst of gamers everywhere with their system. Hell, Origin could remain the way it is, requiring players to log in and use it to buy and launch their EA PC games, forcing them to create new friends lists and fill out full new online profiles, if EA would just make a few subtle changes. People reacted poorly to Valve’s Steam service in the early going, too, but Valve has found a way to turn objections into a powerful following among PC gamers. Origin might be able to do that. It could at least make people not hate it. But it’ll take a little work on EA’s part. Here are three steps that could EA could take to save Origin.
3. Make Sure the Service F–king Works
When I screw around with Origin, it seems to lose connectivity a lot. It won’t load the store and then I can’t connect to game servers. The only remedy, it seems, is to shut it down. This is minor and yet an irritation; imagine how those guys in the Origin forums who can’t seem to get the service to allow them to log in feel. I myself have forgotten my password twice because of Origin’s irritating requirements for numbers and capital letters and translations into Klingon and what have you.
Origin can save itself, quite simply, through reliability. It needs to be as iron-clad as EA can make it, and if it goes down or acts up, EA needs to be Johnny on the Spot, telling players what’s up and working hard to fix it. Support should be fast, polite, and above all, helpful. There’s nothing worse than getting a crappy call-in or online service experience.
Reliability will help Origin build a reputation of non-suck. That’s a step in the right direction. Right now, the service is seen as EA’s attempt to control its games and get even more money from players without the filter of other online portals like Steam. The least it can do is do a good job of keeping things working as well as possible for players. If EA can provide good service, players will be much more willing to put up with Origin, and that means more willingness to purchase and play EA games.