What would it take to rehabilitate Origin, the game-download service gamers love to hate? For starters, according to executive vice president Andrew Wilson, turn it into an actual service.
“That’s what you’re going to see from us over the next year,” says Wilson, speaking to Games Industry International, “which is [to] really re-establish Origin as a service to gamers, not as a means to drive transactions.”
When Electronic Arts rebranded their EA Store into Origin back in 2011, it sounded like a way to finally inject some good, old-fashioned competition into a market dominated by Valve’s heavyweight champion, Steam. But Origin just couldn’t provide the same smooth, effortless experience. Worse, the Origin experience seemed disproportionally tipped towards EA’s interests, pushing products and transactions over building something customers could actually enjoy using.
That’s now how Wilson envisioned it when he first worked on the project, back before it was even called Origin. “What we really had in mind in the early days was a service that made your EA games better,” he says. “A service that made it easy to access games and update games, that enhanced the experience of playing games, that helped you connect to other friends playing games across all platforms, not just PC.”
The recent re-org at Electronic Arts put Origin back on Wilson plate, along with his duties as head of EA Sports. He sees it as an opportunity to go back to those basics.
“The transaction is really a very small part of the experience,” says Wilson. “That’s really not what this is about.”
Instead, “Make your EA games better” has become the new Origin mantra. And to that end, Wilson believes Origin itself could become a silent partner that facilitates while remaining largely invisible to the player. “Origin is really only there to help your games more seamless, more fun, and to allow you to play them with your friends more easily,” says Wilson. “That will be the razor by which we decide how on how we build new features and what we do.”
“We think of Origin, in this new world, as the gracious host of the party,” he adds.
In the short term, that means streamlining the whole process, from download to install to automatic patching. Long term, Origin must shake off the rough first impression it spent two years building up, and Wilson knows it.
“I am not so naïve as to believe we will change that perception quickly,” says Wilson. But he believes if he can deliver the gamer-focused experience people actually want, a turnaround will happen.
“We get it,” says Wilson. “We understand it. We have heard, we have made some changes already in terms of how we do things. We actually want to build a service to gamers. We’ve got to do it. It’s got to be there.”