EA’s Origin – The Importance of Trust

So like the desperate jock who realises that nerdy kids seem to inherently hog all the girls these days as they’re non-threatening and treat women like the mysterious and potentially dangerous creatures that they believe themselves to be, EA have been whining again about Origin.

In their more recent blog post, EA are asking people – customers, non-customers and maybe-customers, about their service and what could be done to improve the system, and maybe one day be as non-threatening as Valve are with their Steam platform.

Thing is, EA are sort of missing the point a little bit.

Origin isn’t a great service – that’s a given, and having used it myself and watched with horror as the thing rifled through the contents of my hard drive, I was left asking myself to what purpose would EA have to include within the Origin program the means to hunt through your drive?

And then it started rifling through Steam. And I kinda got it. Origin wasn’t interested in me as a customer or my safety, per se. It was interested in gathering data – and that included, potentially, data from the very service they were insistent they were not competing against.

From that moment on, something very important was lost – my trust. I couldn’t get the program off my system fast enough, and it annoys me that EA and their EULA condones such measures.

Trust is a commodity that is so important in this day and age. We all presumptively give a little out on a daily basis, and from this – if the trust is founded, then we build on it. It takes time and patience to build a relationship – be that personally or professionally – and when a few people trust, they sow seeds for you. They draw others in. They spread the good word.

Steam – as a platform – tried at the start to forcibly get your attention, like a desperate nerd realising he’s not that popular and would rather like a pretty girlfriend too. But it couldn’t – we didn’t like it, and we found it annoying and desperate. Over the years, Steam quietened down and rather than Valve forcing it at every opportunity, it seeded friends and allies slowly into the giant that it is today. It isn’t perfect – but Valve have built a rapport with companies and their users, they have become non-threatening. They have become trustworthy, and many millions put their trust into them every day.

EA similarly have the same problem Steam did at the start – it’s forcing the system out there, playing hard-ball and is seemingly unaware why everyone is hugging Steam. Steam is still a profitable business model, but despite the technical flaws of the platform and the back-door shenanigans that Valve deal in with publishers and indie developers – it’s front end, it’s name is one that people have grown to trust.

EA are entering Origin into a market already dominated by one major player, much like any handheld that goes up against Nintendo. It doesn’t help EA’s case that Origin is incredibly invasive, incredibly clunky, very limited in terms of interface and still rather laden with errors and glitches – but the real kicker is in the market currently, EA are simply not trusted enough.

EA’s descent the past couple of years has been rather impressive to watch and most of it boils down to their handling of BioWare, and the freefall plummet that brand has seen in the last year, but it is not limited to that. EA have swallowed up a lot of things – the Popcap deal still baffles me, but that’s okay, I’m sure their financiers and lawyers were absolutely sober when they paid that billion for the company. Well, I’m 90% sure they were sober. Maybe 80%. 75%?

Without trust in the name, people cannot trust the service that is provided. This is one of those Business 101 moments that it would appear EA skipped class when they were teaching it, but it is true. If people do not have faith in EA (as is evidenced by them winning the Worst Business award last year) then Origin by token is also doomed to fail. When there is a more trusted brand on the market – Steam – EA’s insistence to make all their new releases Origin-only looks set to only harm them in the long run, rather than accept that it may be in its best interests at the start at least to keep them all running concurrently on multiple services.

It really isn’t complicated why Origin isn’t taking off. It doesn’t take a degree, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist and you don’t need to ask Russel Grant for a prediction. If people can’t and won’t trust EA, then they can’t and won’t trust Origin as a service.

It really is that simple. And if EA need to ask customers to spell this most basic of business principles out for them, then EA are in for a world of problems…

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