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EA's Origin Hosting Third-Party Content 'Very Soon'; 4M Client Installs

Electronic Arts' new, wholly-owned Origin digital distribution platform is currently reserved for first-party titles, but CFO Eric Brown said Friday the service will host third-party content "very soon."
Publisher Electronic Arts is putting major focus on its digital strategy, and a key component of that is the company's new Origin digital distribution platform, where it currently sells EA-published games. But the scope of Origin is set to expand beyond EA's walls, putting the service in more direct competition with other digital distribution platforms such as Steam, Impulse and Direct2Drive. "Initially, Origin is set up to deliver EA games, but very soon, we'll be delivering third-party content to Origin," said EA CFO Eric Brown at a UBS conference in London today. He said EA plans to "leverage our backend infrastructure -- the 130 million-plus registered users that we have, the multitude of digital payment methods, et cetera" in order to attract other companies' games to its service. The exec did not specify which third-party games and companies that are headed to Origin. A wholly-owned digital download business would be extremely attractive to a major publisher such as EA. By selling a digital game directly to customers, the company could bypass retailers, increasing margins substantially. "We're fairly excited about Origin," Brown added. "We have about 4 million installs of the client, we expect that number to climb substantially as we enter this ... holiday season." EA's PC games now by default install Origin to users' PCs, even if the game is purchased at physical retail. EA CEO John Riccitiello hinted at third-party content on Origin back in July. "We've had a lot of inbound inquiry [from third parties] about getting on [Origin]," he said at the time. "I think forward-looking publishers really want their content on any and every platform possible. One more sale is better than not."

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