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E3 2011: EA launches digital distribution service

Valve Software’s Steam has been the big dog in the PC digital distribution space for a while now, but one of the industry’s biggest publishers is ready to take it on. Origin-Screenshot

Electronic Arts has announced Origin, an updated “direct-to-consumer gaming platform” that will let people buy titles directly from the company, rather than via retail or another service. Given how heavily EA is betting on PC games in the year to come, it’s not an altogether shocking move.

EA has had a digital store for a while now, but it wasn’t a center of interest for the company. In the months to come, though, EA will release “Star Wars: The Old Republic,” a massively multiplayer game that is expected to be a hit with players. And the only place to buy it online will be via Origin.

The service will also house exclusive content for upcoming titles including “Battlefield 3,” “FIFA 12” and “Alice: Madness Returns”. And the service, launching later today, will kick off with 150 available titles.

Beyond using Origin as a download service, EA plans to position it as a social hub for gamers, letting them connect with friends lists and see what games your friends are playing at any given time – a feature Steam currently offers.

Origin will also have a mobile application, letting users access their profile and connect and play with friends using EA’s collection of mobile games – putting the service in competition with Apple’s GameCenter as well.

The company will discuss the service more at its E3 press conferences Monday June 6 – and says it will release exclusive trailers and content for several of its new games.

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