With the Steam on Linux beta going from strength to strength and more games ported over by the day, other software distribution platforms are looking at their OS compatibility to see if there’s other markets they can get into. Currently Valve is the only company, aside from GOG.com, that offers games able to work on three different, consumer-targeted desktop platforms: Microsoft Windows, Apple Mac OSX and now Linux (mostly Debian and Red Hat-based, though). EA’s Origin has been Windows-only for quite some time but will soon take its first steps trekking into the Mac OS X bushveld.
The Alpha program will only be open to a thousand participants in the UK and the US but that’s not to worry – a worldwide beta will follow that, soon. The Alpha phase requires Mac users with deep knowledge of how the OS works and how to fix it and those able to get into the testing phase will be rewarded with a free copy of PopCap’s Bookworm. I know, that’s hilarious, but the company doesn’t exactly have many free games on offer with Origin as it is.
As Techspot’s Rick Burgess points out, though, this is less about the fact that Origin is a poor service compared to Steam and more about the fact that Mac OS X is receiving more gaming support, increasing the amount of games available to owners tied into the Apple iTunes store and the ecosystem’s walled garden. Misgivings about Apple users aside, this is a good thing for everyone involved since OS X is UNIX-based, just like Linux. As more non-Windows platforms are supported, so Linux creeps closer into mainstream relevance.
However, unlike Valve’s Steam service and its catalog, many older EA games won’t be made to work for Mac OS X. Some modern IP like the first two Mass Effect games won’t be seen on the platform for quite some time until the developers make the required optimisations (after going to EA for permission, of course) and you’d have to buy them again through Origin even if you had the boxed Windows versions, for example. EA might address this in future but its also worth noting that unlike Steam, there’s no CrossPlay-like support intended for the service, yet.
Obviously, Mac owners have been treated to AAA games before from EA, with the Dragon Age games, Call of Duty 4, World of Warcraft and Starcraft II all being made available for them to enjoy. Valve’s Mac OS support has been ongoing for some time now, with a large range of titles to choose from and for some existing Mac owners, there’s little reason to switch. A competing digital distribution plaftorm is essential, however, for the OS X-compatible games market to continue to expand – who knows, perhaps this is EA’s first steps towards officially supporting Linux in future as well.