Brothers Richard Garriott and Robert Garriott, their father Owen, and Chuck Bueche founded Origin Systems in 1983 because of the trouble they had collecting money owed to Richard Garriott for his games released by other companies. The company’s first game was Ultima III: Exodus; because of Ultima’s established reputation, Origin survived the video game crash that occurred that year. It published many non-Ultima games, and Richard Garriott claimed that he received the same royalty rate as other developers.
By 1988 Origin had 15 developers in Austin, Texas, and 35 other employees in New Hampshire. In September 1992, Electronic Arts acquired the company for $35 million in stock, despite a dispute between the two companies over EA’s 1987 game Deathlord. Origin, with about $13 million in annual revenue, stated that it had considered an Initial Public Offering before agreeing to the deal. By 1996, Origin had expanded to more than 300 employees, most of whom were divided among small, largely autonomous development teams. In 1997, Origin released one of the earliest graphical MMORPGs, Ultima Online. After this title, Electronic Arts decided that Origin would become an online-only company after the completion of Ultima IX in 1999. However, within a year’s time, in part due to Ultima IX’s poor reception, EA canceled all of Origin’s new development projects, including Ultima Online 2, Privateer Online, and Harry Potter Online. Richard Garriott left Origin shortly after and founded Destination Games in 2000.
In later years, Origin mainly existed to support and expand Ultima Online and to develop further online games based on the Ultima franchise such as Ultima X: Odyssey, originally to be released in 2004 but later canceled. In February 2004, the studio was disbanded by Electronic Arts. The Longbow series of simulation games was developed at Origin and published under the “Jane’s Combat Simulations” brand of Electronic Arts. A follow-on project, Jane’s A-10, was under development when the project was canceled in late 1998 and the team moved to other projects.
Official website: http://web.archive.org/web/19970330131424/www.origin.ea.com/english/index.html