EA's Origin service is primarily known as a digital storefront and competitor to Valve's Steam, but it has a few other strings to its bow.
On mobile platforms, it's used to allow cross-platform social interaction between iOS and Android versions of EA games as well as features like cloud saving and Facebook connectivity, while its Web store has, until now, also offered physical disc-based versions of games alongside their downloadable counterparts.
Yes, "until now," because EA is discontinuing this particular aspect of Origin's offerings from April 4 -- this coming Friday. As of April 4, Origin will become a digital-only storefront for PC and Mac games, primarily from EA.
The news was announced in a blog post entitled A Fond Farewell to Discs, published last Friday. The brief post positions digital downloads as "fast and convenient," and claims that the service's move to all-digital will provide "the best experience" for gamers.
"What does this mean for you? If you're among 99% of our users, absolutely nothing. Your shopping experience hasn't changed one single bit," explains the post. "But if you're that 1% who still desires a physical collection, we want to let you know that Origin won't be able to fulfill that need beginning April 4th. We’ll still be here when you transition your gaming habits to the wonders of digital downloads."
It's worth noting that physical versions of many of EA's relatively recent titles can be registered online to add the games to your account, thereby providing you with a digital backup should your discs cease to function. And in the case of the company's most recent games, SimCity being just one example, installing from disc automatically adds the game into your Origin client anyway, simply replacing the Internet download process with copying the relevant files from disc.
Judging by the comments on EA's blog post, a number of users were not even aware that Origin sold physical copies of games. It's also worth noting that to date it's almost always been cheaper to purchase physical copies from third-party retailers like Amazon than from EA. While the post does not make it clear whether EA is discontinuing physical packages for PC and Mac games altogether or simply ceasing to sell them through Origin, Charlie Sinhaseni, PR manager for the upcoming The Sims 4, claimed on Twitter that physically packaged versions of EA games would still be available, just not through Origin.
This news comes in the wake of EA's new On the House promo, which offers free games from the Origin catalog every so often, beginning with survival horror hit Dead Space, presumably in an attempt to attract more people to the service.
It seems that EA is serious about making Origin into a real contender in the digital marketplace, but the company still has a long way to go before it can truly compete with Valve's market dominance through Steam.