Update: Origin has gone live - official press release follows the original story below.
EA is reportedly readying a Steam-like digital download service.
Dubbed Origin, the online store will debut with over 150 games - it will be sole online seller of Star Wars: The Old Republic - and boast social networking features, according to the Wall Street Journal (subscription required, via GameSpot).
Social networking features will allow users to communicate about their game experiences across a variety of devices through a single profile, while actions performed on platforms like mobile will feed back into full PC games.
As an example, David DeMartini, EA senior vice president of global online, said a mobile Battlefield shooting minigame could earn players experience points in the main game. (Interestingly, he mentioned Xbox 360 and not PC as the full-fledged platform in his example.)
EA CEO John Riccitiello said Origin is one of the "cornerstones" of the company's digital strategy.
In March, EA Games label president Frank Gibeau said PC is "an extremely healthy platform. ... It's totally conceivable it will become our biggest platform."
Press release - Electronic Arts (EA) Inc. (NASDAQ:ERTS) announced today the launch of Origin, EA's direct-to-consumer gaming platform. Available today at www.origin.com, Origin is where gamers can go to find, purchase and download all the best content from EA. More than 150 games are currently available on Origin, and in the months ahead, Origin will be the place to purchase and download exclusive limited edition copies of highly-anticipated EA games, including Battlefield 3 and FIFA 12, as well as content from EA Partners including Alice: Madness Returns and 38 Studios' Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. Later this year, digital downloads of Star Wars: The Old Republic will be available exclusively on Origin.
Also launching today is the Origin beta application. Available for download at www.origin.com, the Origin beta is a desktop application that will be users' direct connection to the best content from EA and offer the ability to create and manage a personal community of gamers. Through the Origin beta application, users will be able to find and connect with friends, see what they are playing, and digitally download and play PC games straight from EA.
By visiting Origin.com today, users can set up an Origin profile, download the Origin beta application, and begin browsing titles available now or pre-order upcoming games. In addition, exclusive game content and trailers for upcoming EA titles will also be available on Origin, including Mass Effect 3, FIFA 12, SSX, Madden NFL 12, Need for Speed The Run, Star Wars: The Old Republic, The Sims 3 and Battlefield 3.
"Origin is a game service with two fundamental features," said David DeMartini, senior vice president of Global Online at EA. "It's a download service for the very best content from EA and its partners. It also offers a social function which, over time, will connect a player's profile with friends lists and a cross-platform feed that shows what your friends are playing and where."
"We're committed to offering consumers direct access to great content and community in a way they have never experienced before," said EA CEO John Riccitiello. "Today we're launching Origin.com and the Origin beta application. Over time, Origin will grow with new functionality and unique new content that consumers can't get anywhere else."
Origin will also be available to gamers on the go, with the service on mobile devices giving gamers access to an Origin mobile profile where they can connect and play with friends in EA's leading smartphone titles, including SCRABBLE and the upcoming mobile version of Battlefield 3. In the future, mobile gamers will also be able to see what games their friends are playing, as well as compare high scores and share what's fun.
Origin will provide the easiest way to buy and play the best EA content while staying connected to friends. The Origin beta application will offer PC gamers:
Digital Exclusives: The Origin beta application will deliver full digital downloads for new PC games including Battlefield 3 and Need For Speed The Run. Future additions will include access to the latest online betas as well as demos and try before you buy opportunities.
Connect, Share and Play: through the Origin beta application, build friend lists, import contacts from Facebook and chat about your game experiences in the Origin community. Connect with friends, see who is online and what games they are playing. An in-game overlay integrates social and web-browsing features directly into gameplay, with future capabilities to include in-game downloadable content purchases.
The Origin.com website will provide:
Persistent Profiles - Anytime, Anywhere: create an Origin profile to manage your favorite games and friend lists that are accessible from any PC.
Fast and Easy Purchasing: central location for downloadable content for EA's latest PC titles, with a streamlined purchasing and download process for games and pre-orders. The Origin.com store is also just one click away from a tab in the Origin beta application.
"This is our first step in the evolution of Origin, and in the weeks and months ahead we will look to enhance the features and services as well as an expanded range of content," said DeMartini. "From exclusive demos to full-game downloads, Origin is the place consumers will go for the best game experiences."
During EA's press conference next week at the E3 Expo in Los Angeles, exclusive content for EA titles will be made available on the Origin.com website. EA's E3 press conference is scheduled for 12:30PM PST on June 6, 2011, and a live webcast is available at www.ea.com/e3/press.