EA: It's never been about Origin vs Steam

EA has never been shy about picking fights with competitors, no matter how large – witness the ongoing shouting match between Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare – but the head of the company's new download service, Origin, says that's not what's going on between his platform and Valve's Steam. In a blog post, Origin head David DeMartini aims to set EA's story straight vis-a-vis the perceived Origin/Steam rivalry – which came to many players' attention when EA's Crysis 2 vanished from the Steam Store, leading many to suspect EA were consolidating their resources and preparing for a fight.

“Over the coming years,” EA head John Riccitiello told investors at the time of Origin's launch, “we're transforming EA to a games-as-a-service model.” That transformation would seem bound to bring the company into conflict with Valve at some point, with the latter continuing to pioneer the model EA seeks to adopt. DeMartini opens his post with a shout-out to the company's would-be competitor, filing the Crysis 2 matter under “misunderstandings”: at that time, he writes, word online “suggested that EA was in conflict with one of our download partners, and that we had removed our games from that service. This is absolutely not true.”

DeMartini explains that while “any retailer can sell our games, we take direct responsibility for providing patches, updates, additional content and other services to our players. You are connecting to our servers, and we want to establish on ongoing relationship with you.” Without getting into specifics, he laments that “unfortunately, if we’re not allowed to manage this experience directly and establish a relationship with you, it disrupts our ability to provide the support you expect and deserve.”

Of course, if you were to take on one of the highest-regarded outfits in gaming, you'd do well to pre-empt your attack by framing the conflict with yourself as the good guy: “At present, there is only one download service that will not allow this relationship. This is not our choice, and unfortunately it is their customer base that is most impacted by this decision.” Which is to say: EA wants to be chums with everyone, but if someone's not allowing that, what are you going to do? Far be it from us to say EA's gearing up for a scrap, then – but if the talk turns nasty six months from now, let the record show that we certainly didn't say they weren't.

What do you make of DeMartini's words on the Crysis 2 matter – and the Steam/Origin situation as a whole? Is the olive branch genuine, is he being just a bit passive-aggressive, or are these veiled fighting words?

Jul 7, 2011