Origin tops 4 million users, could double in the next year - EA

Publisher exec David DeMartini weighs in on digital store's future features, third-party publishers, competing with Steam, and retailer-exclusive preorder bonuses.


Electronic Arts launched its Origin downloadable distribution storefront at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in June. The service quickly made a splash with the news that it would be the exclusive online retailer for Star Wars: The Old Republic and an ongoing issue with Valve that has seen games like Dragon Age II and Crysis 2 pulled from the developer's Steam storeftont.

Origin is building on not-so-humble beginnings.
Origin is building on not-so-humble beginnings.

Through that eventful launch window, Origin has attracted a user base over 4.2 million people, EA senior vice president of global online David DeMartini told GameSpot this week. The store now offers more than 300 downloadable and retail games, integration within mobile titles, free-to-play games, and a selection of Gaikai-powered streaming demos for a selection of games like Crysis 2 and Dead Space 2.

That's only the beginning, DeMartini said. EA is looking at adding new features like cloud saves and streamlining the process of buying downloadable content, and it has four big Origin pushes coming up. First up is the open beta for Battlefield 3, which begins Thursday and requires players to download the Origin program. After that, DeMartini said he expects The Old Republic, The Sims, and next March's launch of Mass Effect 3 to drive new user adoption of the service.

"I would not be surprised if we experience another 100 percent growth over the course of the year in our users," DeMartini said. "We've already processed more than 1 million transactions so far this year."

Origin will be the only downloadable storefront to offer Star Wars: The Old Republic.
Origin will be the only downloadable storefront to offer Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Part of that growth may come from publishers that are ordinarily considered among EA's rivals. DeMartini reiterated the company's efforts to host other companies' games on Origin, teasing, "In the very near future, we're going to have some rather significant announcements with regards to some of the additional titles that will be available on Origin."

DeMartini also stressed that EA would treat publisher partners in the way it seeks to be treated by Valve. (EA has pulled some of its games from Steam, citing a desire to be able to have its own interactions with end users that don't go through the service.)

"We really do believe in a fair and open marketplace. We strongly believe that customers should be able to buy a product wherever they want to buy the product. If they want to buy the paid DLC from some place other than where they bought the original product, they should be able to do that as well. And if they want to buy microtransaction content from somewhere else, they should be able to do that."

DeMartini showed no hesitation when asked if other publishers would be allowed to circumvent EA with their own DLC efforts for games sold through Origin.

Origin is offering early beta access and a DLC pack to Battlefield 3 preorder customers.
Origin is offering early beta access and a DLC pack to Battlefield 3 preorder customers.

"1,000 percent yes," DeMartini said. "A fair and open marketplace. If we are so fortunate to sell someone's great IP at a full-price sale and they're smart enough to put a store in their game and make paid DLC easy for the customer, that was pretty smart thinking on their part and we have no issue with that.

The executive also addressed the trend of retailer-exclusive preorder incentives, where bonus content is split into multiple packages, each available only from one or two specific retailers. As a result, essentially nobody who buys a game like Battlefield 3 at launch can get the comprehensive game experience without buying multiple copies.

"I don't know that it benefits the consumer, as much as that's kind of the direction the industry has gone," DeMartini said of the practice. "Every retailer on every one of these major releases seems to get their little trinket of digital positivity (or sometimes in the box positivity) as a little extra you would get for purchasing from that particular retailer. I think we showed good partnership and discipline in not just saying we're going to entitle the purchase you get from Origin and everybody else just gets the vanilla product. "

A full-on replacement for the EA Store, Origin serves as a hub and infrastructure for downloading and playing PC games, as well as ordering boxed products for other platforms.

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