digital distribution with a new service they call "Origin." (Old-timers should not confuse this with Origin Systems.) The service will have 150 titles to start with, and will be the exclusive digital distributor for their new MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic. Obviously EA figures this will be a must-have title that will help drive business to their new digital distributor.
EA sees themselves as becoming a "software platform" and becoming a central hub for gamers. Apparently they feel they can accomplish this without pissing off other distributors or retailers, which will certainly be a neat trick if they can pull it off. We're seeing Activision trying to sell a premium service to Call of Duty fans, and I guess this is EA's idea of how to appeal to their fan base with more service offerings.
It does seem like a useful strategy for these companies to expand their digital offerings and try to connect gamers more strongly to their house brands. The success of these efforts depends to a large degree on how well they are executed. Certainly gamers are social animals, and like buying things online... but that's not the same as having them line up for these new offerings. Will EA still make its games available through Steam and other places? I'd assume so. Will their Origin service have exclusive offerings of games, or perhaps some DLC? Probably... if it doesn't have something gamers can't get somewhere else, why would they go there?
The real thing to watch will be the discounting. Will EA be able to maintain their full retail price for games as downloads? If they don't, retailers would certainly be unhappy. We are going to see just how well EA can segment off its distribution channels. They'll have some tricky maneuvering to do.