EA Origin takes on Steam, brings games straight to gamers

Video game giant Electronic Arts has taken the wraps off Origin, a new service for PC gamers that enables players to find, buy, and download EA games directly, tap into exclusive content and limited edition titles, and (via a desktop application) build their own community of gamers and connect with them directly for multiplayer action. Currently, EA says more than 150 games are available from both EA and partners, although in the coming months the company says Origin’s offering swill expand to include more titles, including the anticipated Battlefield 3, FIFA 12, and Mass Effect 3.

Electronic Arts Origin

“Origin is a game service with two fundamental features,” said EA Global Online senior VP David DeMartini, in a statement. “It’s a download service for the very best content from EA and its partners. It also offers a social function which, over time, will connect a player’s profile with friends lists and a cross-platform feed that shows what your friends are playing and where.”

Electronic Arts has released a beta version of its Origin desktop application that enables users to not only search for and download games to their PCs, but also connect with friends on the Origin service and find out what games other users are playing.

Origin appears to be Electronic Arts’ response to Steam, an online service that currently offers download access to more than 1,000 games from a broad range of developers—including Electronic Arts. Perhaps more significantly, it signals the company’s willingness to transition away from a business model based on selling physical media in retail outlets to selling downloadable, digital content. Digital downloads are already a large share of the PC game market.

Origin will offer players access to digital exclusives (like access to betas of online games, as well as exclusive demos. EA’s plans for Origin don’t stop with PCs: EA plans to bring Origin to mobile gamers as well, enabling players to not only buy and download games but also keep up with what their friends are playing and compare high scores. No word yet if EA plans to roll console games into Origin.

Expect to hear more about Origin next week at the E3 Expo in Los Angeles.