I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Crysis 2 was pulled from Steam a short while ago. That’s right, if you haven’t yet purchsed it, you are out of luck, at least when it comes to Valve’s download service, now. What happened? Well, the people over at EA decided to take yet another shot at launching their own store. Their original EA Store sucked, so they dropped it in favor of their new Origin service. Origin is basically EA’s own Steam knock-off.
What this means for you is that for a period of time, there will be a new online gaming store that’s backed up by the weight and wallet of a major publisher. In a bid for your money, they are certain to institute protectionist policies, making their games unavailable for sale elsewhere. BioWare’s Old Republic MMO is confirmed as an Origin exclusive (at least at launch), and Battlefield 3 will be available at other download services, but not via Steam.
I, for one, was looking forward to Battlefield 3, provided there was no idiotic DRM or registration requirements (like those in Dragon Age 2). My fear at this point is that we might be forced to create an Origin account regardless of where we buy the game. That, at least to me, means no sale. To be fair, this is not a new problem, as others have done it as well. Dawn of War II, for example, forced me to play its single player campaign via both Steam and GFWL, even though I really didn’t want to deal with either. Make no mistake though, new or old – this is a problem.
Unlike many angry people on the Internet, I don’t believe that Origin is somehow more evil than Steam. The way I see it, both services install annoying software on my computer. Both are run by companies that have no qualms about locking people out of their collections for real or imaginary violations. Both are effectively DRM. Neither offers much to compensate for the inconvenience, nor any recourse or compensation when their services go down, so once they disappear all your games will be lost.
Oh and if you for some reason think that either Steam or Origin are forever…you might be delusional. No company is eternal. And yes, someone once said something about letting people download their games if Steam ever closes down. The thing is, companies go out of business all the time, and running such a service is expensive. Not to mention that DRM will need to be removed from the entire catalog, which once again will cost time and money. Basically, unless you have seen it in legally binding writing that there is an escrow account set up for this very purpose, you are just lying to yourself.
With that said, I trust that Steam will outlast Origin by a long shot. EA is notorious for discontinuing game servers for even relatively new games. If Origin doesn’t become popular immediately and doesn’t prove to be financially viable, they will shut it down. They’ve done it before. They’ve also once attempted to charge for “a service” that granted you the two-year ability to re-download the game you already bought. If Origin is not successful, you will almost certainly lose your games.
Why would it not be successful? Well, the aforementioned protectionist policy is not going to win EA any friends. (Valve does the same thing by the way, but Valve has the advantage of having been there first.) Many people, such as myself, will be unwilling to switch from Steam because they’ve used it for a long time and have their entire collections there. Many people don’t want to deal with yet another service, another account, and another installation. The biggest issue with Origin, however, is that EA is just not very good at this type of thing. All of their initiatives of this sort, if memory serves, have failed.
Most of the above is speculation, of course. Anything can happen that does not violate the laws of thermodynamics. Still, somehow I don’t see these recent developments as positive. Time will tell, but for the time being I am going to prepare myself for the possibility that I’ll just have to pass on Battlefield 3. Unpleasant as it may be.