Let me begin this by noting that, in actuality, EA’s at least been paying solid attention to Origin lately. Lending a helping hand to crowd-funded games taking their wobbly first steps was a smart idea, and putting out a big call for input from users is a much appreciated gesture – assuming, of course, that EA actually takes resulting criticisms to heart. That said, Origin 9.0 – a self-described “landmark update” – isn’t exactly encouraging. Once it rolls out, you’ll gain access to a free-floating friends list, re-sizable game icons, and, er, a clock.
EA gave a very excited blow-by-blow of the less-than-formidable update in a blog post.
“Origin 9.0 is nearly here! In the coming days, we’ll be rolling out a landmark update to millions of Origin users worldwide, beginning with players who have opted in to beta updates and going live for everyone else soon thereafter. Your suggestions and feedback over the past few months have driven many of the changes you’ll see in Origin 9.0. We’ve added a clock to Origin In-Game, increased your control over your My Games library, and made our menus more navigable.”
More navigation! ALL OF THE NAVIGATIONS. And while the pop-out-y bits and malleable menu elements look nicely functional, that’s sort of the issue: Origin’s functional – and that’s it. In the same timespan it’s taken to get Origin 9.0 out the door, Steam’s added Greenlight, Source Filmmaker, a large selection of F2P games, remote installs, and now Linux support is on the way. Sure, EA’s opted to dive out of the line of fire and behind the old “Well, they had a head start” excuse, but if it’s honestly hoping to compete, it can’t stay years behind the curve forever.
What I’m saying is, beyond being a branded storefront, I still don’t understand what larger purpose Origin serves. In truth, I’d actually like to see it, er, pick up some steam, because I don’t think it’s healthy for Valve to not have a viable rival in this space. But this – at least, so far – isn’t the way to do it. Origin’s neither sprinted to the point of being neck-and-neck with Steam nor has it differentiated itself in any meaningful way.
Instead, it’s just puttered along at its own languid pace, harmlessly reminding us of its existence every time we pop open a big-name EA game. Hopefully, though, 9.0 is just the beginning of a much, much larger movement to put some meat on Origin’s emaciated bones. Because right now, I’m Commander Shepard, and this is most certainly not my favorite store on the Citadel.