Origin 'not sticky enough' - EA

EA's SVP of global e-commerce David DeMartini reflects on platform's first year, calling it "foundational" and saying service lacks certain engaging features; explains confusion regarding Steam store absences.

Last week, Electronic Arts' Origin platform celebrated its first birthday. EA did not publicly note that fact with any kind of outward fanfare, but the service had a busy first 12 months. Since its launch in June 2011, the platform has tallied 12 million users, attracted 50 different publishing partners, and found itself in the midst of a privacy concern controversy and a tussle with Steam.

EA's David DeMartini.

GameSpot caught up with the man in charge of the operation, EA senior vice president of global e-commerce David DeMartini. We picked his brain about the successes, shortcomings, and evolution of Origin in its first year.

During the talk, DeMartini explained that the Origin feature set in its first year was rather foundational, and noted it was important to him to lay the appropriate groundwork before adding more "glitzy" features. He said bringing socially interactive services like improved friends lists and cross-platform play options to Origin in the current year is EA's focus moving forward.

Elsewhere in the interview, DeMartini explained that EA wants to work with all publishing partners for Origin. He specifically called out Activision, saying he would love to see Diablo III and Call of Duty games on Origin. DeMartini also expanded on Crysis 2's vanishing act from competitor Steam, and why he's OK with Mass Effect 3, Dragon Age II, and Battlefield 3 not being available on that service.

Check out the full interview with DeMartini below.

GameSpot: Origin is now a year old. If you could describe the year in one word, what would you say?

David DeMartini: Can I use two?

GS: Sure.

DD: I would say, "continuous improvement."

GS: Was this year a success for the platform?

DD: I think a huge success. When you consider where we started from, which we kind of say was a standing start, we've got 12 million downloads of the application. We have 50 partners: independent game developers and publishers who are publishing on the platform. We've generated over $150 million in revenue, which represents huge growth on a percentage basis versus the previous year. In every numerical dimension it was a huge success.

"When you start one of these services, you can't leap to the glitzy features. You have to get the meat and potatoes down first."

That said, the Origin feature-set last year was very foundational. When you start one of these services, you can't leap to the glitzy features. You have to get the meat and potatoes down first. I guess the analogy that I would use in the sports industry is if I'm starting a football team, I might draft a lot of offensive and defensive linemen and those aren't the sexy positions, but if you want to have a really strong team, you're gonna start with that foundation. And once you have that strong foundation you can get a bit more elaborate in some of the other positions.

Last year was very much a foundational year for Origin. And this upcoming year we're very excited because we're going to start to draft some of those skill position players that are going to put a lot more sticky features on the Origin application.

GS: What kinds of growing pains has Origin experienced in those first 12 months?

Origin is now a year old.

DD: Shocking as this may be to you, Eddie, people like Steam a lot.

GS: I've never heard that (laughs).

DD: I've never heard that either (laughs). I think people have been critical of our efforts. And usually, we really appreciate their criticism. When you start a service, if nobody says anything about you, they don't care about you, and you're irrelevant. I would not say that's the case with Origin. There are many people with opinions about Origin: where we should go, about features we've deployed. And again, if you take a look at the bigger picture, and you look at where we were on the day that we launched versus where we are now, and you look at things like cloud saves, the improvements we've made to friends lists, the capabilities we've put in there with in-game chat, the ability to pop into the in-game overlay, what we've done with merchandising experience, how we've added partners. And you look at it at a meta layer, and you look at where we started versus where we are right now, it's very hard to look at that and say 'Wow, they're not making any progress.'

After immediately saying that, I would also say, we're very much engaging with the community, and we're trying to hear from them what are those sticky features that they want us to be developing that would allow us to be differentiated from any other download service. We don't have an intention of being any other service. We have an intention of being the best Origin that we can be. And I think those are the kinds of features and activities that we're pushing forward with.

GS: Which is more impactful to you in your decision-making: positive or negative criticism?

"If nobody says anything about you, they don't care about you, and you're irrelevant."

DD: Having made a lot of games for seven or eight years before I started working on Origin, you know I would be foolish not to say I don't appreciate the positive comments. At the exact same time, I'm equally embracing those that are our harshest critics because they cut right to the chase. No BS about it. They don't pat you on the back while building the foundation, they immediately leap to "You can't do this!" and "You can't do this!" We take stock in their comments, and we try to make as much progress as we can with our team, and that's really a lot of the fuel that our team uses to drive the implementation of a lot of these new features that we're working on.

GS: What are some types of things you can point to that Origin did well in its first year?

DD: Certainly the commerce experience is very solid. Also our integration with EA's games during the first year and then subsequently what you'll see with all the third-party games and externally developed games would be a strength as well. I think the kind of exclusive offers that we've had out there. We've had Battlefield 3 and what we've done with Star Wars has certainly been very attractive to the people who downloaded the Origin application. I think when you look at things like our implementation of cloud saves, in-game chat; some of those foundation pieces have done quite well. The reason they haven't gotten more positive write-ups is because a lot of those features are features other services have. So when you do something that other people have done and you do it quite well, if you're not the first mover, you're not going to get as much credit as somebody who did it for the first time, and we certainly understand that. But these pieces, these features, are fundamental and foundational to what we want to push forward and what we want to achieve going forward.

Being self-critical of Origin, I would say it's not sticky enough. And we want to put features in place where we fully take advantage of your friends lists and gameplay activities amongst all of your friends so you can compare achievements. We want you to be able to challenge your friends, and to challenge your friends to play other EA games to try and achieve things that might even be across EA games. A lot of people are loyal to us and we need to reward them with that stickiness, so we're looking in that direction. And then obviously, EA has made a significant investment in mobile and social as well as PC as well as console, and we need to take full advantage of how cross-platform EA is and allow that to be realized within the Origin application.

On EULA controversy: "We were a toddler and we were learning to get out of our crawling position and into our walking position, and sometimes you get out in front of yourself."

GS: Can you point to some examples of things that didn't go so well at Origin or things you wish you had done differently in the first year?

DD:I think some of the end-user license activity that we did and how we actually went through an Origin install. I think we were under-prepared for the harsh feedback for some of the feedback we got in some of the European countries based on how we were even just doing the basic install of Origin. And we had to react quite quickly to that with some changes to our EULA as well as to our install procedure. I mean, there's nothing nefarious going on there, but just on the surface people's reaction was appropriate. It gave the illusion that we were being far more intrusive than we actually were and those things needed to be changed. So those types of things are learning experiences. We were a toddler and we were learning to get out of our crawling position and into our walking position, and sometimes you get out in front of yourself, and you start running before you know how to do it as effectively as you need to. You need to listen to the community, take their feedback, not overreact to the tone of the feedback, but cut it down to its essence then make quick corrections. And I think we got on things very quickly and we made improvements where we needed to make improvements.

GS: In the past year, Origin has added dozens of new publishing partners. Big ones like Warner Bros, Capcom, and THQ, and also smaller outfits like Paradox and Autumn Games. What steps is Origin going to take in the next year to bolster its roster?

"If Activision was open-minded, we're absolutely willing to take on their great titles. Diablo III is a great game. Call of Duty will be very popular."

DD: We're always so open-minded to taking on every partner in the industry. If Activision was open-minded, we're absolutely willing to take on their great titles. Diablo III is a great game. Call of Duty will be very popular. Take-Two, I mean there are a couple of large publishers out there that are not on Origin.

GS: Have there been discussions with Activision and Take-Two?

DD: As you can imagine there's not a stone that we haven't unturned in regards to participation with the Origin program. We want everybody to be on the platform. We're very much an open platform and we would like every publisher to participate and we'd like every independent game developer to participate. And we'd like everybody who can get a crowd to fund their game to participate. We have absolutely no restrictions with regards to who we would welcomes on the platform. And I think the fundamental premise behind Origin and our view on the whole industry is that an open industry where the customer gets to choose where they purchase their content is healthiest for the game industry overall.

EA wants Call of Duty on Origin.

GS: A move that may have caught people off-guard was EA's decision to waive distribution fees for 90 days for successfully funded crowd-funded games. What role do indie games play in Origin's overall platform strategy?

DD: I would love to say that was so strategic. Some ideas just sort of naturally pop up. And to give you the genesis of that idea: literally a few of us were sitting next to each other and we were looking at a bunch of the crowd-funding sites and we started looking at it and there was so much passion on these crowd-funded sites for in many cases old intellectual properties that people had great remembrances of. It seems like the perfect marriage of Origin and independent game developers and the support of independent game developers that the idea kind of just instantaneously rose up and it was such an obvious, right thing to do. That the idea went from idea to implementation probably within less than three months' time and from the first iteration of the idea to full execution to announcement was a very short window. And it was just something obvious to do. It rewarded the core and rewarded those people who were really passionate about the crowd-funded game, and it rewards the guys who are doing the creating, who have been around the longest time and have helped build our industry. So there were so many positives from the perspectives of benefits the hardcore, benefits the crowd, benefits the independent game developer, and it was just an idea we had to do and do it as quickly as possible.

GS: What has the response been to this promotion thus far?

DD: Kind of a gulf. From the most popular names to some of the most unknown names where somebody is saying 'Hey, I've got this idea.' You get the crowd to fund it and we're gonna help you by virtue of the free publishing in the first 90 days. The response has been very positive and my goodness, for the first time ever, even hardcore gamers out there on Reddit and everywhere else that we watch really didn't have anything negative to say about what we did [laughs].

GS: Is Wasteland 2 the only confirmed title for it so far?

DD: That's the only confirmed title, yes.

GS: Another major event for the year was issues around Crysis 2 on Steam. First it was there, then it wasn't, and now it's there again. Can you talk about your relationship with competitors like Steam and your rules for selling your games through their channels now that you have Origin?

"We haven't taken a single title down off Steam. But as games have fallen out of compliance with Steam's rules, they've chosen to take product off."

DD: Clearly, there were changes made by Crytek to Crysis 2--the Crysis 2: Maximum Edition--that brought the game back into compliance with Steam. So I think consistently, if you look at everything we've said, we haven't taken a single title down off Steam. But as games have fallen out of compliance with Steam's rules, they've chosen to take product off. And there's been many quotes and misquotes with regards to who did to what to who and who took what off what. We've not taken a single title off of Steam. Certain titles have fallen out of compliance. Crysis 2: Maximum Edition actually brought, if you will, Crysis back into compliance by virtue of all of the content being contained within that product, so there wasn't some additional download that had to happen only on Steam. So the entire bundle is available, and by virtue of the entire bundle being available, they were in compliance, and lo and behold, it was back up on Steam. That's really all there is to that story.

GS: So are Battlefield 3, Dragon Age II, and Mass Effect 3 not available on Steam for those reasons?

DD: Yes.

GS: Is it a big issue for EA to not have those titles on Steam?

DD: No. Those three titles have done fantastically on Origin and every other download site where you can get access to those games. So the one thing about working at EA is that when you have this fantastic IP that you get to put up at your store and every other store that will take it, is gamers find the best intellectual property wherever it is for sale. That said, we're very supportive of having our intellectual property for sale on as many sites as we can. Obviously, we'd love to have those titles up on Steam, but unfortunately, those titles don't follow the rules that Steam has so therefore those titles are not up on Steam.

"That's our goal: to make a great gaming service. We are not there yet. But in the next 12 months we are going to make great strides towards it."

GS: What are some benchmarks for Origin during the next 12 months?

DD: Most importantly, improving and continuous improvement in our customer satisfaction in regards to how happy people are with the site and the features we're implementing on the site. That is always our most important indicator. In our games, our game teams look very closely at Metacritic, which is a reflection of what the community is saying about your product. I think we very much look at what anyone says about Origin, and we assign our own 'virtual Metacritic' for Origin. We continue to try to improve that Metacritic. And I also think we always want to make a significant amount of progress with regards to the platform nature of the service and we want to make progress with regards to the stickiness of the service. And I think if we satisfy more and more customers everything else takes care of itself from there. If you make a great game, if you have a great service, people buying games on your service is an outgrowth of making a great service. You don't set out with the intention of saying I want to sell $300 million worth of product on this gaming service. What you do is make a great gaming service and people then want to buy it from you. And that's our goal: to make a great gaming service. We are not there yet. But in the next 12 months we are going to make great strides towards it.

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Discussion

0 comments
Hermilla
Hermilla

- A distribution/download service that does not work with proxies. Can't patch or download games in some countries (but Steam works fine).

- Higher prices than Steam (even for EA's own products) in some regions.

ichigo2862
ichigo2862

I'll give Origin this much, and grudgingly. Their offline mode actually works better than Steam, if you launch it with no internet connection available, it automatically goes into offline mode. Steam's offline mode requires some sort of precognitive ability in knowing when you'll be cutoff so you can enable offline mode manually (and you can only do so while still online). That said, I still like Steam better.

alexg223
alexg223

I enjoy BF3... What I don't enjoy is being forced to use a buggy P.O.S. service in order to play it! "In the next twelve months... make great strides..." What I understood as the point of making Origin was to create an easier to use interface in games like BF3. They did the opposite. On my system, it works half the time and doesn't the other half. I've been building systems for over ten years, I never have problems like these with any other service, or game. Fix what you got, dumb@ss!!! 

cephas90
cephas90

EA trying to get some of the egg off of its face.

N0tYrBeezin
N0tYrBeezin

The guy would like Activision Blizzard's games on Origin? May be when hell freezes over or when Kotick finally shuts his mouth!

ken007
ken007

"And I think the fundamental premise behind Origin and our view on the whole industry is that an open industry where the customer gets to choose where they purchase their content is healthiest for the game industry overall."

 

If they actually believed this they would bring games like DA2, ME3 and BF3 back into compliance with Steam, but they won't cause it's EA.

nyran125
nyran125

STEAMs amazing, ill never touch EA ORIGIN. I couldnt care aless about the 4 games that are on EA ORIGIN that are worth playing. SIMCITY better be on STEAM.

 

STEAM is easy to deal with. However if your going offline mode you delete the clientregistry blob, update THEN go offliine mode. ive literally transfered my entire STEAm folder to another harddrive with STEAM and installed a new OS. Updated the STEAM platform and have nt even needed to back up the games. Accept a few needed reinstalling but only a few.

Shawn45
Shawn45

I wonder how many people are like me and only downloaded Origin for Mass Effect 3. I can't say I have started the program once since I beat the game, and I don't really intend to use it anymore. 

garvitnarula
garvitnarula

another shitty thing about steam is that it doesnt allow you t keep the downloaded game in a separate folder. its against sharing totally while ea lets you locate the game and keep it elsewhere if you want

 

bloody-hell
bloody-hell

EA is on their usual pro-EA-talk trip on major game review sites again (GameSpot, IGN, ...) but don't let their marketing talk fool you, they get paid to pro-talk their company, it's their job.

Of course nothing is going to change for the better of their customers, all they care about is making money and pleasing their shareholders.

Sure they say they listen to feedback and that it's all a learning experience and that it will get better over time, but seriously, look at for how long EA is now ignoring customer feedback and continues to screw them over again and again, then think again about if anything their PR guys say has any substance at all.

 

A simple change, like getting rid of Origin exclusive titles, offering reasonable pricing, abandoning DRM and forced online mode and just sell good games (as a product we own after buying) instead of as a service (we have to rely on EA's generosity of how long we are allowed to use it) would be enough to drop most of the "evil" image they have, but of course some of their shareholders must be part of the DRM train so nothing will change in this regard.

 

Some of the games they publish are actually good (when they are not about to ruin another good IP they bought), it's everything around the games that turn me off from spending my money on them, mostly activation limits, having to rely on an online service to even start the game, additional 3rd party "piracy protection" software required and things like that.

 

Your turn, EA - Let me make it clear, I don't rely on you, I can get my share of entertainment from a ton of games I rightfully own on Steam, GOG and other sources and the good old times where copy protection was non existant - It's you, EA, that has to change to make me spend money on your prodcuts, I as a customer have the power of choice.

fightingfish18
fightingfish18

I don't hate Origin.  I think it's good because it is providing legitimate competition to Steam.

TheBigKabosh
TheBigKabosh

People here sound like whinny little B's... I'm not a fan of Origin and would rather play games without it but it's not as bad as people here make it sound. Most are just hating on it cause it's cool to hate EA, and other big companies even if they never had any problems with them

Arsyad00
Arsyad00

thanks for giving us good games EA

k2theswiss
k2theswiss

Origin sucks... Steam Wins. Only Reason origin is working is because the Excluving Saleing Their Products on it. Any Games, bought in Store has to run through it. Then Ea has the came out To say sales on steam is crazy and a slap in the face to the Devs... Steam and the Dev Comes to Agreement. Steam Don't force them. A sale on a game increase sales to people who Would never bought It for that price, built in advertisement to people who never heard of the game, your game climbs up the ranks for days just because of a 1 day Sale. Ya your nuts for spending 100 million on advertising games...

shak1r
shak1r

"If nobody says anything about you, they don't care about you, and you're irrelevant."

 

If people REALLY dislike Origins, don't talk about it, don't use it. Ignore it completely and it'll go away. Done.

DeadrisingX1
DeadrisingX1

No, no, that's not the problem. The REAL issue is that Origin still exists.

scarred_fox
scarred_fox

hi EA, i can't update ANY origin launched games (e.g ME3 & BF3) due to my overseas location. matter of fact...ITS THE ONLY SOFTWARE I CANT UPDATE AT ALL !!! steam works fine, ubisoft launcher works fine. more than likely a region block so now i have to resort to playing ME3 v 1.0 with all its bugs and play the MP on bronze mode on my own...way to raise the bar -_-

Shilleto
Shilleto

origin has been ok steam in its first years was the same

Raxyman
Raxyman

Let me define Origin for you EA:

Crap. A lot of it.

Colekern
Colekern

 @GamerMani Dude, you're stupid. If you could get new car for $30,000 at a used car retailer, or get it at a trusted, loved new car shop for $20,000 dollars, which would you choose. 

ragnar320
ragnar320

 @GamerMani

dude i love steam and im white but i am poor and thats why i love steam cause i bought bioshock 2 for 5 bucks and then got company of heros for 15 with all dlc included. great games that suddenly become super cheap

DeusAlex
DeusAlex

 @GamerMani

 You're ignorant and racist. Your parents should be proud (sarcasm) for raisng a dumb ass

ragnar320
ragnar320

 @nyran125

 OMG I JUST REALIZED SIM CITY WILL MOST LIKELY BE ON ORGINNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!

cephas90
cephas90

 @Shawn45 I got it for ME3 and BF3.  ME3 was a total letdown because of the ending, and BF3 WONT EVEN CONNECT TO SERVERS SINCE THE LAST PATCH.  I'm so tempted to uninstall but I have 120 bucks in that crap.

rarson
rarson

 @TheBigKabosh

 

Actually, I think most people who are defending Origin are doing it because it's cool to hate on EA but even cooler to be a nonconformist. Case in point is your comment above. I notice that you didn't actually state any specific reasons why Origin is a worthwhile product. Instead, you just made broad generalizations and assumptions about other people's experiences.

 

I don't hate EA, but I wouldn't say I like them either. However, I hate Origin (and yes, I've used it, and yes, I've had problems with it). Because Origin sucks. It has nothing to do with EA, other than the fact that they're the ones trying to force people to use it.

Auronvolgar
Auronvolgar

 @TheBigKabosh indeed having buy Batlefield 3 original and then force to download 3-4GB from origin while origin was giving only 100kb/s download speed indeed origin is not bad :S

garvitnarula
garvitnarula

 @scarred_fox origin works perfectly fine with me man ive changed my location from china too us to uk but its great everywhere ive played bf3 and fifa and been able to update both of them

 

Auronvolgar
Auronvolgar

 @Shilleto nah steam was not forcing you to use it for undate not even to complete the instal of a game like happend on BF 3 3-4GB for download after i install the game from the DVD FFS

scarred_fox
scarred_fox

 @garvitnarula

 have you tried the from the middle east? because thats where i work at for the year and as i mentioned above, its the only program that won't update my games.

Banefire76
Banefire76

 @StraTooS

 Wow, id have to say your a brave (or foolish) guy to back up EA so loyally. But thats not really whats going on here is it? How do i know that? Because Origin has exactly zero redeeming qualities, and since you present yourself as an intelligent person than your support of Origin can only mean 1 of 2 things (or both).

 

1. You own EA shares and want them to grow in value

or

2. You are employed by EA

 

Either way i do have some honest and helpful advice to you.

Sell your shares now and cut your losses and get a job with someone else because frankly EA's days are numbered.

Take my advice or leave it, but you have been warned.

Colekern
Colekern

 @Maias227 Fhe difference is, I use Steam because I like it. I use Origin because I'm forced to.

Maias227
Maias227

 @Auronvolgar Well when I have gotten the same download speeds with Steam, normally I'm sitting 200kb or so with Steam while Origin normally resides somewhere 800kb-1mb. It largely depends on where you live and what the server conditions are for the two services in your location. Origin has better servers than Steam whenever I download something.

Auronvolgar
Auronvolgar

 @Maias227 there is a huge deference when you force someone to conect to origin and download files from there and to not force then download files from steam to play the game. My friend brought BF3 after the install origin force him to download more 3-4GB with a very good download max speed of 100KB/s while his line at the same time was able to download from any other site or program with 1,5MB/s 

Maias227
Maias227

 @Auronvolgar Steam does the same. Good luck getting Portal 2 outside steam or any of the Total War games. Both sides have exclusives, steam just has way more of them right now.

JimmeyBurrows
JimmeyBurrows

 @StraTooS It is unfair that everyone says it sucks because it isn't steam... Personally I dislike them both, what happened to the good old days when you didn't need some crapware installed to buy or play a game.

On the other hand though, just having 1 would be nice if we have to have any, that's why origin is a slightly bigger waste of space than steam.

Auronvolgar
Auronvolgar

 @StraTooS bro the steam was not a program to sell games when it lauched that happend years after do your homework then speak FFS nabs everywhere

Raxyman
Raxyman

 @Banefire76 The guy surely works for EA. No gamer on a sane mind would ever defend them.

StraTooS
StraTooS

 @Banefire76 What pisses me off is people that blame this over that, just like politics or religion, without realizing that that which they defend has pretty much the same flaws they are pointing their fingers at.

I do use Origin on a daily basis, for game such as BF3 and ME3.

I hate haters, people that bring nothing intelligent to the table.

 

Origin has zero redeeming qualities? and I assume you know this because you use it on a daily basis, and know all of it's features and lack of them. I doubt it. And the point remains the same, Steam and Origin are not taht different, you can't compare fairly a 9 year old platform with one that has just turned 1, that's just absurd. How many redeeming qualities did steam have back in 2004? I'll tell you, HL2 and CS:S and that's about it. Steam came a pretty long way before people started to adopt it, the biggest difference, is that people didn't hate Valve.

 

I defend Origin because I consider all the accusations to be unfair and based on general hatred and ignorance, just like I used to defend Steam's good thing back in the day that not one of my friends wanted to use it.

 

Unlike most people I prefer to see the good side of things, and leave my ignorance for myself.