After their infamous 2011 divorce, Electronic Arts have come crawling back to Steam. After 2018’s mega drop in net worth, EA have conveniently decided that they ‘want to be where the players are,’ and have stopped PC releases from being exclusive to their Origin launcher.
After a teaser tweet sparked speculation, Electronic Arts (EA) and Valve, the company behind the Steam games launcher, officially announced their partnership on Tuesday. The first game to be available on Steam will be Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, available on 15th November.
This re-connection comes after EA and Valve infamously fell out in 2011 over Crysis 2, with EA blaming Valve’s business terms and their incongruity with those of Crytek, the developers of the game. The contradictory terms were never released, but every PC release post-2011 has been an exclusive to the Origin launcher, where EA can keep 100% of the sales, rather than dishing out around 30% to a partnered launcher such as Steam.
It wasn’t an easy adjustment, as their net worth dropped from $7 Billion to $3 Billion USD in 2011-12, but EA steadily rose from the ashes as gaming popularity surged, reaching their peak net worth of $45 Billion USD in September 2018. However, after Battlefield V flopped and sold a million fewer copies than expected, EA hasn’t shown signs of recovering from their net worth being cut in half.
So what’s to blame? EA using Origin as their sole PC games launcher just isn’t cutting it anymore – if EA were to repeat their miscalculation, they would go near bankrupt. Using a platform such as Steam is the best option, and not just for a wider reach. With an average of 12 million users online at any given moment, gaming isn’t the sole reason Steam users use the launch site: it’s a thriving community with discussion pages, forums dedicated to games, customisable profiles, memes, broadcasts, a marketplace for DLC and trading cards. Origin just simply lacks this community aspect.
Through partnering with Valve, EA will have dedicated forums and discussion pages for its games on Steam, and could very well start its own community from there. As well as this, friends from Steam will automatically merge onto Origin, too. There is even a compromise reached between them – you buy the games through Steam and launch them through Origin. This means that EA can still use Origin as a launcher, while benefiting from Steam’s community aspect.
Mike Blank, EA’s Senior Vice President, discussed the issue of independent gaming services in an interview with GamesIndustry.Biz:
“Since the time we removed our games from Steam, there’s been this dramatic increase in the number of gaming services […] It creates more difficulty for players, and providing player choice – from my perspective and speaking on behalf of EA – is really critical. It’s an opportunity to make it possible for people to play where they want, to reduce that fragmentation and make it more frictionless… Reducing that fragmentation is really important. It’s the most player-first thing we can do.”
Mike Blank, EA Senior VP
EA’s partnership with Valve helps to reduce this ‘fragmentation,’ as EA games will also be on Steam’s ‘Discovery Queue’, where an AI works out which games you’ll want to play based on what you own and have wishlisted – this will push EA games into your recommendations, rather than have sales rely on mainstream advertisements. With 53% of developers working on PC games and Steam being the largest PC games distributor, this partnership deal was a pro gamer move.