Electronic Arts said during a financial call yesterday that Origin Access Premier, an upgraded version of its subscription-based Origin Access service that will provide full, unlimited access to EA games, will go live next week. More quietly, it also pulled the plug on Origin's "On the House" program, which provided free games to everyone—including non-Access subscribers—on an intermittent, time-limited basis.
On the House debuted in 2014 with the most excellent survival-horror game Dead Space, and since then has made numerous other games, including Bejeweled, Battlefield 3, Theme Hospital, Syndicate, Peggle, and Dragon Age: Origins, free for the taking, without catches or take-backs. The games generally weren't EA's latest and greatest but free is free, and dated or not a lot of the games it offered were really quite good.
Earlier today, however, Reddit noticed that the link to the On the House page is, without notice, redirecting to Origin's front page. EA had made no prior announcement about eliminating On the House, but a rep confirmed in email that it has been dropped.
"Origin On the House has been retired and games will no longer be offered through the program. This change won’t affect any games players downloaded from the service prior to that date—those are theirs to keep forever," the rep said.
"Even though this chapter of On the House is coming to an end, we’re happy that we got to introduce so many great games to our awesome players. We’re constantly looking for ways to improve our service and give our users an even better experience, and we thank everyone for being part of our community."
Disappointing though it is that we won't be lifting any more free stuff out of EA's pockets, I'm not really surprised that On the House is going away. In a market that was utterly dominated by Steam, EA needed a way to attract attention to its own platform, and nothing says "look over here" like the promise of free games. But I don't think it's quite the priority that it was Origin's early days: Steam is still the behemoth, but we've largely adjusted to the idea of publisher-specific storefronts and launchers, and new EA games requiring Origin instead of Steam no longer seems like a big deal—so the need to compensate for it just isn't there anymore.