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Can EA’s Origin succeed on Mac where Steam hasn’t?


Electronic Arts may be struggling to regain its financial strength as the company transitions from the one-time wealth of console games to the more level playing field of digital distribution on PC and mobile, but that doesn’t mean the company isn’t exploring every possible avenue of growth. The publisher wants a piece of the 54 million active user per month pie enjoyed by Valve’s Steam, and it’s spent two years growing its Origin digital platform to do just that. EA announced on Friday that it’s bringing Origin to one of the few growing personal computer brands in the market: Apple’s Mac. Based on the performance of competitors, though, Apple’s desk and laptop line may have a negligible impact on Origin’s growth.

“Our vision with Origin is to connect your gaming universe online, and today we’re taking a major step in expanding our service to reach Mac-based gamers worldwide,” said Origin VP Michael Blank in EA’s announcement of the service, ”In delivering great game content, connecting the Origin service across PC, Mac and iOS devices, and offering great value to gamers with dual-platform play on select EA titles, Origin is making it easier than ever before for gamers to connect and play.”

Dual-platform play, letting Origin users with both a Windows PC and a Mac play games on both platforms, is an appealing sales pitch. According to research firm Gartner, Apple’s Mac line accounted for just above 12 percent of the global PC market during the holiday quarter, but compared to the broader PC market, it’s maintained the steadiest growth. As the NPD Group discovered just three years ago, an enormous percentage of Mac purchasers also own PCs. Dual-platform play should help EA appeal to those users.

The initial lineup of dual-platform supported games may not be a huge draw. Batman: Arkham City, LEGO Harry Potter, The Sims 3, and Dragon Age 2 were popular titles at one point, but their age limits their appeal as instant draws to the service.

An outdated game selection isn’t the biggest hurdle EA faces in finding an audience for Origin on Mac. With 40 million registered Origin users—though active client users on PC are closer to 11 million—EA has a base of gaming customers to build from, but that base has shown it isn’t especially interested in gaming on Mac. As demonstrated in Valve’s monthly overview, Apple’s OS X is the least used operating system amongst Steam users.

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