Time to import those old games to digital services?


— 10:35 AM on June 12, 2014

We were recording the podcast last night, and the guys were talking about their affection for the original Mirror's Edge in the wake of the recent E3 video about the next installment. That game is one of many that I started and, despite my best intentions, never found time to finish. I thought to myself, "Hey, I should install that and play through it."

That thought was quickly followed by a jarring realization. Although it's an EA game, Mirror's Edge wasn't associated with my Origin account, and I didn't own it on Steam, either. To my growing horror, I realized I would have to hunt down the physical disc for the game in order to install it.

If I could find it, the pain would just be starting. I'd probably have to type a long, complicated code into some ridiculous custom dialog where you tab every four characters or something. Hope the DVD didn't have any scratches that would produce read errors during the long, noisy installation process. Watch as it silently installed three layers of buggy, ancient DRM code that might break on Windows 8.1. Then hunt down and install some number of patches and updates to the game in just the right order. Makes me tired thinking about it.

I decided long ago that owning a game digitally, preferably on Steam, is way, way better than having a physical disc. But I hadn't fully grasped until that moment how completely true that statement is, how much I practically fear the rituals involved in The Old Ways.

Although I'm on record as not being a fan of EA's Origin, I was happy to make an exception when, after a little googling, I realized that I was able to redeem the game code from the Mirror's Edge DVD in the Origin client. Doing so added the game to my library, and a few clicks later, it was downloaded and installed automagically. In no time, I had Faith up and running across rooftops in 4K glory at a constant 60Hz.

I had to get over some trepidation about transferring my "ownership" from disc to Origin, but the bare truth is that I was gonna have to rely on EA's good faith in either case. Turns out, I think, that even Origin—heck, maybe even Uplay—is a better repository for my trust than the interlocking series of painful measures tied to a circa-2009 PC game DVD.

Origin will let you add a whole host of EA retail games to your account by redeeming the game key, and Steam offers the same option in a smaller number of cases. I haven't tried it, but evidently, it's also possible to retrieve a CD key from a game you own in Steam, redeem it on Origin, and then have it on both services. That possibility seems weirdly generous for company with EA's usual M.O., so I'm a little skittish about it. Still, you know, seems like something one would want to do, if there's no downside. In a few cases, like Mirror's Edge and Battlefield: Bad Company 2, adding the game to your Origin library grants you some additional content you won't get elsewhere.

Now I'm facing a whole bookshelf of older games that, thanks to my own warped instincts, practically requires my attention. I guess. I mean, there are discs over there in boxes that I can view but maybe not really access. Or I could type in a magic code and have them at my fingertips forever. I'm pretty sure I know how this gets resolved in the end.

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