2017 Update: Steam has reclaimed the throne from Origin for one simple reason, their new return policy. 2 hours of playtime or less within two weeks of your purchase grants you a no-questions asked refund on any game, regardless of reason. This kind of consumer-empowerment singlehandedly trumps anything offered in Origin’s camp. Not to mention that, in the two years since this was originally posted, I’ve encountered some severe bugs with the latter that’ve seen me reinstalling games simply because Origin was unable to find files that it spontaneously relocated of its own volition. Software’s taken a nosedive in EA’s camp, to put it politely.
Having had a lengthy engagement with both, I think it’s finally safe to say that Origin is objectively better, though it’s deemed inferior by the internet purely out of spite for the company behind it. But feature-wise and functionally, Origin puts Steam to shame, no contest (Disclosure: I have no hat in either ring, in terms of game biases or corporation coddling. They both have no subjective appeal to me that make me favor one over the other. Thus, this is a strictly objective comparison of their respective strengths and weaknesses).
Origin wins as a stable platform, first off. While Steam messes up your gaming activities every Tuesday due to “maintenance” and routinely disconnects in the heat of online multiplayer, I’ve yet to encounter a single hitch with Origin after playing hundreds of hours of multiplayer. One point for Origin.
User interface has some good aspects on Origin, but is ultimately stronger on Steam. While the aesthetic choices on Origin are more to my liking, from an objective standpoint the friend system, group functionality and navigational capabilities of Steam are far more user-friendly and hassle-free compared to Origin’s. One point for Steam.
Feature-wise, Origin absolutely dominates. While for the past few years Steam’s free game weekends have given them the upper hand, lately Origin has been doling out bonus after bonus. Free WEEKS of big budget games such as Battlefield 4 have become frequent, entirely free GAMES such as Deadspace and Battlefield 3 are popping up more and more often, and a great game guarantee allows you to return a digital game within twenty four hours if you find you’re not having fun with it. Meanwhile, in the Steam camp, you can suck it up and deal with the fact that their return policy is about as forgiving as a steel-toed boot to the skull. TWO points for Origin.
At this point in the match, the only real thing Steam has going for it asides from the lovely UI is a faster download cap, meaning that games are playable far sooner than their Origin counterparts which take forever to download. One point for Steam.
So, the final tally is three for Origin, two for Steam. While Steam definitely started out stronger, Origin has been getting its act together and has finally outpaced Steam in almost every aspect. You can love Gaben and Valve as much as you want, but they’ll need to up their game to prevent Origin from taking the crown as game-client king.