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Valve's Newell: Origin has a lot of catching up to do
Valve's Newell: Origin has a lot of catching up to do
April 23, 2012 | By Mike Rose

April 23, 2012 | By Mike Rose
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing

Valve head Gabe Newell has revealed his thoughts regarding EA's Origin platform, stating that he hopes EA changes its mind and brings its Origin-exclusive titles back to Steam.

EA launched its own digital distribution platform last year, and soon afterwards began to remove its games from Valve's Steam service, signalling the company's desire to compete with Valve.

Talking on a podcast with Seven Day Cooldown, Newell said of Origin, "I don't think they're doing anything super-well yet."

"They have a bunch of smart people working on it but I think they're still playing catch up to a lot of people who have been working in the space for a while. I think they're recognising what the challenges are with building and scaling out this kind of system."

He continued, "That's not to say they won't build stuff in the future that is useful to software developers or to gamers but they haven't done that yet."

Newell admitted that Valve would still "love to have [EA's] games on Steam," and said that EA needs to realize that "whatever they're trying to do to create value for their customers is not a zero sum game."

"I think EA wants to take their shot at building their own alternative to Steam, and if they're successful at that and their customers like that then that's great," he said. "We think their customers would be happy if their games were on Steam. We tell them that on a regular basis."

However, he continued, "As we learn about this stuff we're all going to be making things better for other gamers. Tim Sweeney [Epic Games founder] doesn't look at Steam and say 'we shouldn't support that because that will hurt long term sales of the Unreal Engine'. He's like, 'that's pretty cool, that's pretty useful'. So hopefully EA get their head to the same place."

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Eric Geer
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"We think their customers would be happy if their games were on Steam. We tell them that on a regular basis."

I would be happy if their games were on Steam too!!

Joe McGinn
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Ditto. I've avoided buying EA games digitally precisely because I don't want or need yet another game service.

Jeremie Sinic
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Same here. I'll buy Mass Effect 3 when it's on Steam or I'll pass on it, however great the game is.
It sure is good to have competition in the field, but Steam was first there, so it's up to EA to make efforts to earn goodwill.
If they were more open, as counter-intuitive as it may sound, I would more likely try Origin.

Benjamin Quintero
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When I hear comments like these I tend to only see the salesmanship in them. Gabe is obviously pro-Steam because he owns it =). It's not exactly an unbiased opinion to say that he wishes EA would cave in to industry pressure.

Healthy competition would be good for Steam and a 1 distribution future sounds convenient but it's scary. Read into the stranglehold that cable providers have on the data pipes in your area and you'll start to understand my concerns.

Admittedly, I've passed on games like Syndicate BECAUSE they were only on Origin but that's only because Origin is so terrible, not because Steam is so good.

Dave Kay
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Of course there's always some bias... but if you asked Gabe flat out what he'd like to see with the future of Origin, I'm pretty confident that his answer would be something along the lines of a competitive but non-exclusive platform. I'm pretty sure he'd suggest that it would be in the best interest of the gamers if both services existed, and both services sold every title; this way consumers could choose which service they wanted to use based on the service itself, and/or pricing, rather than being 'forced' into it by exclusive titles.To prove he's serious, however, I'd like to see Halflife on Origin! Not that I have any intention of using Origin any time soon...

E McNeill
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Gabe isn't saying that EA should shut Origin down, he's saying that they should continue to offer their games on Steam. If Origin is going to compete with Steam, shouldn't users prefer to buy the games on it anyway?

Of course, Valve should then offer their games on Origin. :)

Benjamin Quintero
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Dave and E,Both solid points, and I completely agree.

And that's exactly my point as well. He goes on about an equal market and how there should be no fear in putting EA games on Steam, but Valve is not exactly putting their titles any place else; thus the salesmanship. His argument is to put it on Steam where the strongest platform gets stronger.

Steam has so much mass and momentum now that there is this inherent struggle just to catch up to their subscription numbers. Offering even more AAA titles on Steam is only strengthening their platform, even if the game is available someplace else. Who would buy the game ANYWHERE else (Origin, D2D, Impulse, etc) if it was available on Steam? That's scary and can only lead to other services shuddering their doors...

Steam has already reached that critical mass where success begets more success. The only thing that is going to level the playing field is for publishers like EA to hold back titles and publish them to their own platforms and the lower subscription platforms like D2D, Impulse, Gamersgate, GOG, and so on (not Steam). This would create more of an ecosystem than a dictatorship of online PC content.

I LOVE Steam but I'd hate for it to be the only place I can go to for PC games. Steam has practically become as much a gatekeeper to PC games as the closed Console platform holders. Getting on Steam is how to win on PC and it's a little bothersome to leave the keys in the hands of the same company that built the gate.

Tom Baird
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I agree with Benjamin about the momentum of Steam.
Right now, everyone knows Origin is the lesser product. Even EA. But much of that can be attributed to Steam being around for so long. They've had so much time to iron out their kinks, gain user trust, compile a massive library of games. This will come with time to Origin as well (or it will fall apart, one of the two).

Everyone also knows that people would rather buy their games on Steam than Origin. And that's EXACTLY why EA is making their major releases exclusive. They are using their games to bootstrap their download service. Otherwise, Origin will never have the time to grow, which is what it needs to compete with Steam.

Until Origin has been given ample time to grow from user feedback, putting those games on other services just undercuts their own work developing a download service.

Hopefully it doesn't last forever, but I'm skeptical it will. If Origin becomes popular, it will be because it's developed it's own user base that prefers it, and will no longer need to rely on exclusives. If it doesn't at some point they will need to deem it a failure and move on, and find a new location to sell it's exclusive games from.

But as stated by everyone else as well, it's very hypocritical of Valve to be accusing someone else of Exclusives on their own platform. Valve bootstrapped Steam in the same way EA is bootstrapping Origin(using it's major releases to boost subscription numbers), and Valve continues to not sell on any other downloadable service.

Michael Zehnich
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"So hopefully EA get their head to the same place."

haha. i.e., out of their...

Mathieu MarquisBolduc
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I wonder if the next Half Life is going to be on Origin.... (Can opened, worms everywhere).

Brett Williams
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What exactly does Steam provide to the end user that is an extreme value add worth 10 to 20 points per sale? A download and auto-patching system with an integrated web browser?

Gabe needs to realize that the technology is not the great thing they did with Steam. The concept and getting people to adopt this methodology of product delivery is what they pushed. They did a great job of getting everyone on board and afraid of the stigma of digital distribution.

However, from a technology standpoint Steam is a fairly basic piece of technology leveraging things that already existed. Download manager, Patching, and a Friends List. All things Origin already provides.

So the only real things that they are competing on is Usability, Adoption, and Infrastructure. In terms of a client both of them need to improve, but I'm failing to see this huge stretch of highway that Gabe seems to think Steam is so far ahead on.

William Johnson
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How about good will? Valve has given people free copy of their games. They've offer cross platform support. Their DRM isn't nearly as debilitating. And how about free DLC?

Kyle Redd
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And there's also the little matter of Valve not snooping around their users' computer without getting their express permission beforehand (and even then only for very narrow, clearly-defined purposes like hardware surveys), whereas EA will just do it whether you want them to or not and if you don't like it then tough.

Chris Melby
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I agree with Willam's point, good will is key and it really does set Valve apart from EA and others like MS.

Origins can try to mimic what Steam has "already" established -- which goes beyond your generalization -- but there's absolutely no trust between us the consumers and EA.

Origins is too new on the scene and EA's image has been tainted and they've never shown any consistency.

Anyways, I get the feeling you've never used Steam for any period of time and have been more of an onlooker. Valve does so many things right and they've always been consistent. I like that they treat me as a valued customer, where as with EA, they make me feel like I'm a sheep that's grazing on their land.

David Campbell
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It's the difference between a ~250-person private developer and an ~8,000-person corporate publisher.

Mark Venturelli
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Funny, I can't find Portal or Left4Dead anywhere in Gamersgate, GOG, Origin...

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I just want to be able to play the new Sim City on Steam without installing Origin and without needing to be online to play. I hate online DRM especially for a single player game like Sim City... I should be able to play this whenever/wherever I want without an internet dependency.

Chris Melby
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I agree. Single player games should never be dependent on a connection just to be played. Online connections should be left for areas that add value and not be used as a digital leash.

Craig Dolphin
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I resent the heck out of the fact that I can't play skyrim without having to install steam. I refused to buy me3 because of the requirement of having to install origin: even for the retail version. I have to use a satellite Internet connection and all the updates for steam etc cause me no end of issues. I recently had to uninstall steam as it had stopped being able to connect to the valve mother ship. Naturally, it also uninstalled skyrim (wtf?). So, when I reinstalled steam, it had to reinstall skyrim and then redownload all the updates etc that I had previously already downloaded. That might be fine if you have cable, but when you have a monthly cap of just 12 gb this sort of thing can send you over in a heartbeat.

How about developers just sell me a game, I pay for it with money, and don't have to install bloat ware , spy ware, drm clients, or other such garbage? I'm getting to the point where I'm tired of the bs these publishers keep shoveling onto pc gamers. Aside from cdpr, whom I wi

Continue to purchase games from, I'm wondering whether I shouldn't just give gaming up as a lost cause for a few years. Games are supposed to be fun, not an endless source of frustration.

Sorry for the rant.

Benjamin Quintero
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Sad to say, but if you left now and came back in a few years you might hate it even more. I think we are all boiling frogs right now and coming back from a long hiatus of dealing with publishers and their baggage might turn you away forever.

The days of paying money for product is gone. Digital sales will ensure that games are transitioned to become a service and that means more troubles for all gamers. After entering codes, downloading patches, and dealing with day-one DCL and online passes, it usually takes me like 30 minutes to an hour before I see the Main Menu screen in any AAA release these days.

C'est la vie. I wish more could be done to stop it, but... well... good luck with that... That's about as likely as America getting out of its multi-trillion dollar debt.

Tom Baird
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Some are MUCH better than others right now.
I've purchased two games on Steam recently that acted as polar opposites of login flow.

Gotham City Imposters, on initial download, required 3 separate logins, 2 restarts, 1 external downloader pop-under after login (which dropped all saved credentials), 1 16-digit alphanumeric key that had to be input by hand (not even copy pasteable), and was a total mess of login flow and confusion. These logins (all 3) were needed from scratch on all new installs, and if you forgot to click 'remember me' were required on each startup.

Brawl Busters, required a login on the first computer that used it, and then just linked your account to the Steam ID, so all future logins were invisible, regardless of where it was from. There was an update downloader, but it was simple, and painless and worked before launching the app.

They both reached the same result (They can track who you are and what you do + store your characters), but I'm hoping the future starts seeing more simplification of logins (maybe a special keychain tool, that let's you login to Steam/Origin/WindowsLive/OtherServices) once and let's external apps request credentials when they want to login.

David Campbell
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Then don't buy forced Steam games. For me, the service they provide is invaluable. I can pull up every game I've ever purchased and download them to any computer I login to, they stripped away all the mess most types of DRMs put me through. The chat and friends list is nice to have and is getting better over time, along with some other community features.

I probably wouldn't have enjoyed Skyrim near as much if I didn't have the mods, or had to go through the annoyances of having to install them manually. The steamworks system made it so painless I think I can safely say it was key to my overall enjoyment with the game, as otherwise it WOULD have been an endless source of frustration.

That a non-Valve company *forces* you to use Steam is a legit gripe to have with that developer/publisher. That you have crappy bandwidth and a cap is the fault of your draconian ISP. That you weren't wise enough to back up you game before an uninstall is on your own head.

And for everything else, there's Obviously though not every company is going to be comfortable with going the DRM-free route, so Steam's DRM-as-a-service model is the perfect counterpart to it. Between the two it seems like everyone should be content, we just need to push to get more stuff on GOG so it can better compete.

Jonathan Murphy
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Dear EA. I emailed you this in the past. I applied to your company years ago, and you counted that as Origin registration for your games. If you read this please remove my account. Stop punishing me for applying to your company. Thank you.

Kel Skye
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It's quite simple for me, if a particular EA title isn't available on Steam, then there's no chance of me getting it.