Electronic Arts didn't launch Origin--what many would simply describe as a Steam competitor--simply to compete with Valve's digital distribution service. Instead, it did so because of the type of future it expects to see, according to a recent interview with COO Peter Moore, who also discussed one of the major hurdles--what he calls the "dork factor"--that VR headsets like the Oculus Rift will have to overcome.
"I think Steam does a fabulous job," Moore told GamesIndustry International. "They have a great catalog of games. It's got a broader catalog than we do, and a different focus on the business model than we have. We didn't go into business to compete with Steam. We went into business because we saw the future being direct-to-consumer."
Origin is one of several services that some gamers write off as being Steam clones which offer nothing more than Valve's platform. Despite the naysayers, Origin has established a sizable user base of more than 50 million users. And although a number of those users likely signed up only because certain games (such as SimCity) require Origin, EA has made commendable moves to encourage people to use it by choice. Moore points to two examples in particular: the "On the House" program that gives away copies of games for free (including Battlefield 3, Plants vs. Zombies, and Dead Space), and the policy of allowing unsatisfied customers to return a digital game within 24 hours of purchase.
Many companies are accused of regarding PCs as an afterthought: Microsoft's support has been questioned for years (despite its proclamations), Ubisoft often releases its games later on PC than on consoles, and countless companies have released subpar versions of their games on PC. EA, on other hand, has made a strong investment in PC gaming over the years, according to Moore.
"We've been making games for the PC platform before [Valve managing director] Gabe Newell was graduating high school," Moore said. "And we've been the number one publisher forever, and have been the one developer/publisher that has supported the PC platform even more than Microsoft over the years. Yeah, you may say that's a low bar, but that's who we are, and our roots."
As for whether virtual reality could be the next area EA makes a big investment in remains to be seen. We've already heard EA is hesitant to do much with VR until it has a sizable install base, a sentiment Moore reiterated. "We keep looking at it," he said, "but there's not much to jump on board towards right now."
He did go on to make an interesting note about one problem that companies like Oculus VR, maker of the Oculus Rift, will be faced with as they attempt to turn VR headsets into the mainstream products they aspire to be. "It's an incredibly immersive experience, but it's you," Moore said. "You're inside this world and you're oblivious and of course, you can't see. You hope it doesn't get what I'll call the Segway effect: incredible technology that kinda looks dorky. Or the Google Glass effect, which is the dork factor that goes with that."
This isn't to say Moore is down on VR, but he simply foresees this as being a challenge. "And that's what we have to overcome, because I think the tech is great," he continued. "These things done right, commercialized so they can be truly a consumer device with plenty of innovative content to go with it, feel like a blast."
Do you think the way VR headsets look will stop you from picking one up once they begin being sold to consumers, or do you only care about whether the VR experience is any good? Let us know in the comments below.