Friday Electronic Arts said that the digital downloads of BioWare's upcoming MMOG Star Wars: The Old Republic will be available later this year exclusively on the publisher's new digital distribution platform Origin, also launched on Friday. EA also said that gamers will eventually be able to purchase and download exclusive limited edition copies of highly-anticipated EA games like Battlefield 3 and FIFA 12.
"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."
Essentially EA has re-branded its EA Store as Origin. The EA Download Manager desktop client is also still available, but has now been revamped and renamed Origin. The software basically allows consumers to purchase EA titles "any time and any place you want." Those who already established an EA account prior to the name change can still use the same credentials for Origin.
But what Origin isn't is a Steam killer, and there's currently no indication that EA plans to pull its products out of other digital distribution platforms like Steam or Direct2Drive. But the new client offers an interesting social feature integration which connects Origin to Facebook, Xbox Live and (soon) the PlayStation Network.
"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," the company added.
Consumers looking to purchase games straight from EA outside the PC realm – including the Xbox 360, Wii, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, PSP and DS – can head here to the re-branded store. Unfortunately, what's missing from both the website and desktop client is the ability to download and install demos – a means to try some of EA's 150+ library of games before making the financial plunge. That could change over time however.
"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."
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.