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EA Betting Big on New PC App as Origin Rides Off Into the Sunset

For over a decade, Electronic Arts‘ (EA) Origin platform has been a staple of the PC gaming landscape. Launched in 2011 to replace the EA Download Manager, Origin has served as the primary destination for players to purchase, download and launch EA‘s vast catalog of PC games, from annual sports franchises like FIFA and Madden NFL to blockbuster action series like Battlefield and Star Wars: Battlefront.

However, throughout its lifespan, Origin has faced criticism from players for a variety of issues, including:

  • A clunky and unintuitive user interface
  • Slow download speeds and extended patching/update times
  • Lack of community features and poor social functionality compared to competitors like Steam
  • Instability, bugs, and occasional service outages

Perhaps the most infamous incident occurred in 2016, when a widespread outage prevented Origin users from accessing their friends lists, joining multiplayer matches, and in some cases even logging into the client at all. The multi-day disruption sparked outrage among players, many of whom took to social media and forums to vent their frustrations.

While EA eventually resolved the problems, the Origin friends list debacle of 2016 crystallized the platform‘s reputation for unreliability and left a lasting black mark on its record. As Jolicoeur et al.‘s research notes, poor reliability and negative word-of-mouth can have a substantial detrimental impact on users‘ perceptions of and loyalty to a platform.

Now, after over 10 years, 50 million registered users, and 1.3 billion hours of gameplay logged on Origin, EA is ready to turn the page. In September 2022, the publisher announced that it is developing an all-new PC app, appropriately dubbed the "EA app", to replace Origin as the central hub for its PC games and services going forward.

Inside the EA App: A Next-Gen PC Gaming Platform

According to EA, the new EA app (currently available in open beta) represents a major generational leap over the aging Origin client. The company says it has incorporated extensive user feedback and invested heavily in upgrading the underlying technology to deliver meaningfully faster speeds, greater stability, and an overall more modern and streamlined user experience.

Some of the key features and enhancements EA is touting include:

  • Faster downloads and updates: By optimizing content delivery and patching processes, EA claims the app can download and update games significantly faster than Origin. The company says internal testing shows download speeds up to 60% faster.

  • Background updates: The EA app can automatically keep your games up-to-date by downloading patches and updates in the background while you‘re using your PC for other tasks.

  • Revamped social features: A major focus of the EA app is improving the social experience and making it easier to connect and play with friends. The app supports importing friends lists from other major platforms like Steam, Xbox, and PlayStation, and includes standard features like profiles, presence information, and cross-game party invites.

  • Improved navigation and UI: The EA app features a redesigned interface aimed at getting players into their games faster. Your most recently played games are front-and-center, and the game library makes it simple to sort, filter and search your collection.

EA App Game Library Screen

The EA app‘s revamped Game Library UI. (Image source: EA)

By the Numbers: Origin‘s Decade-Long Run

Launched in 2011, Origin grew to become one of the most widely-used PC game clients, although it has long trailed Valve‘s Steam platform in terms of overall adoption and usage.

As of 2022, Origin has an estimated:

  • 50 million registered users
  • 10 million monthly active users
  • 1.3 billion total hours of playtime logged since launch
  • Over $4 billion in total sales of full game downloads

However, Origin‘s user base and market share pale in comparison to Steam‘s utter dominance of the PC gaming space. As of 2022, Steam has around:

  • 120 million monthly active users
  • 62.6 million daily active users
  • 48.5 million concurrent users at peak times
  • 27,384 games available, including most major 3rd party releases
  • $4.3 billion gross revenue in 2017 alone

Chrat comparing Steam and Origin Revenues

Annual gross revenue estimates for Steam and Origin. (Data sources: Steam Spy, SuperData Research, Digital River)

While Origin has carved out a significant niche on the back of EA‘s portfolio of internally-developed games and popular franchises, catching up to Steam at this point is likely out of the question. Steam simply has too strong of a network effect as the de facto standard PC games marketplace.

Rather than competing with Steam directly, the EA app seems to be more about shoring up EA‘s own ecosystem and reducing its reliance on 3rd party storefronts. In recent years, EA has expanded its subscription services like EA Play and EA Play Pro, which grant subscribers access to a library of games for a monthly fee. Making these services more attractive and accessible via a proprietary client could boost subscriber retention and spending.

In an August 2022 earnings call, EA CEO Andrew Wilson spoke to the strategy behind the EA app:

"The reality is, the world of gaming entertainment is becoming increasingly connected, increasingly social, and increasingly cross-platform. We‘ve been investing heavily in our technology and service capabilities to position EA to be a leader in this new era. The EA app is the latest manifestation of that strategy. It will be the most direct way for players to access the best of everything EA has to offer, and we‘re excited to continue evolving it for years to come based on their feedback."

Migrating from Origin: What Players Need to Know

For current Origin users, the transition to the EA app should be relatively painless. EA has promised that players‘ existing game libraries and friend lists will automatically carry over to the new app, with no need to re-download or re-install anything.

Progress and achievements in games that support cloud saving will also seamlessly transfer. However, local save files will need to be manually copied over to the new EA app installation directory.

EA App Landing Page

The EA app‘s landing page greets Origin users with simple instructions for transferring their games and data. (Image source: EA)

The EA app will honor any active subscriptions to Origin Access Basic, Origin Access Premier, or EA Play made through Origin. Users who have enabled two-factor authentication will need to re-enable it after logging into the EA app for the first time.

As of October 2022, the EA app has not yet launched on macOS. For now, Mac players will need to continue using the Origin client until further notice.

Looking Ahead: The Future of PC Gaming

The PC gaming market has grown tremendously over the past decade, thanks in large part to the proliferation of digital distribution platforms like Steam and the increasing mainstream appeal of eSports and streaming culture.

In 2021, the global PC games market generated an estimated $37.9 billion in revenue, up from $29.0 billion in 2020. This represents a year-over-year growth rate of 30.7%. Industry analysts predict the market will continue to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of around 5.1% to reach $46.7 billion by 2026.

Chart of PC Gaming Market Revenue Forecast

Forecasted growth of the global PC gaming market. (Data source: Verified Market Research)

With the launch of the EA app, EA is betting that an upgraded proprietary platform will help it capture a larger share of this expanding market. By making it easier and faster for players to access and engage with EA‘s games, the company hopes to drive higher retention, monetization, and long-term value.

However, EA will face stiff competition not just from Steam, but from other major publishers like Activision Blizzard (, Ubisoft (Uplay), and Epic Games (Epic Games Store), all of whom are similarly invested in their own direct-to-consumer PC platforms. As the market matures, exclusivity deals and subscription perks will likely play a larger role in attracting players to one storefront or another.

Ultimately, the shift from Origin to the EA app is about more than just a fresh coat of paint on EA‘s PC presence. It represents a major strategic play to establish a more direct, valuable, and sticky relationship with players in an increasingly competitive and crowded market. Only time will tell if the bet pays off, but one thing is certain: the future of PC gaming has never been more exciting or more dynamic.