EA Origin

01Sep11

From a games perspective one of the most interesting stories of the summer is the controversial events surrounding the emergence of Electronic Arts’ digital gaming platform for PC.

While initially announced the week before E3 in June [1], EAs take on Steam’s dominant and incredibly successful online game platform stayed fairly quiet and didn’t really cause a stir until EA started selling add-ons and downloadable content from within their games. This effectively cut Steam out of the loop for the games it was distributing and resulted in the removal of Crysis 2, one of the summer’s big releases, from the service. In a press release later released by EA, the company stated that this was because they wanted to “take direct responsibility for providing patches, updates, additional content and other services to our players.”[2] and that after a disagreement regarding terms of service and not naming names they did however mention that this only affected one distributor.

At the beginning of July David DeMartini, who heads EA’s Origin claimed that he was “absolutely not at this point saying, ‘hey, it’s Origin versus Steam,” but by the end of the month PC Gamer had discovered that the download keys used to activate products on Steam could then be used to activate the game on Origin [3], a system that was already showing remarkable similarities in terms of it’s virtual point of sale and its social networking facilities, allowing users to buy games, create a profile and chat and game with friends in what Deuze refers to as a “personal information spaces, where people carefully cultivate their identities through the creation and development of virtual representations of themselves” (Deuze, 2007, p. 31). This is perhaps, to aid the transition of PC gamers reluctant to have to buy games they already own again on Steam to Origin in a bid to create its own space based around the flagship EA games such as the Battlefield, Dragon Age and Mass Effect series.

It is not just in the arguably aggressive way in which they entered the market that EA have caused controversy but also in their initial Origin End-User Licensing Agreement (EULA). Users were required to give EA rights to “collect, use, store and transmit technical and related information that identifies your computer (including the Internet Protocol Address), operating system, Application usage (including but not limited to successful installation and/or removal), software, software usage and peripheral hardware” [4]. While not unusual that a software company would monitor how you use its products, this agreement makes no specific reference to what software or hardware it may monitor. In addition to this the agreement stated that it was to use this data for marketing purposes and share it with third parties. Should you not wish them to do this, their answer was if you do not agree, do not install Origin, essentially cutting you off from all upcoming EA games on PC. This EULA has since been pulled and replaced by a new one [5], which while removing the part about sharing of data with third parties, still does not specify the software and hardware it will be monitoring.

– Craig Harkness

Deuze, M. (2007). Media Work. Malden, USA: Polity Press.

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