Conjuring up images of the Sega Channel from cable’s gaming days of yore, Comcast and Electronic Arts last week booted up a consumer beta trial of a cloud-based gaming service for X1, the MSO’s IP-capable video platform.
The service, called Xfinity Games powered by EA, is starting off with a menu of two dozen titles, including games from EA’s PGA and FIFA franchises, as well as versions of Monopoly, NBA Jam, and Plants vs. Zombies that can be streamed directly to X1 set-top over public Internet connections.
Players will use tablets and smartphones to control the games by pairing them to X1 set-tops over WiFi. Those software-based controls, tailored for each title, will run on a Web browser, so users won’t be required to download and launch separate applications. Most iOS and Android devices will work with the Xfinity Games service.
The consumer trial (Comcast will limit how many users have access to it, but is now urging interested X1 subs to register for the beta at xfinitygames.com) is being offered for free, but it has the potential to open up a new revenue stream. Last month, website DSL Reports reported that Comcast and EA were considering a rotating package of about 50 games for about $10 per month. Comcast and EA have not yet disclosed details on pricing or a commercial launch.
“We have a few ideas in mind,” Bryan Witkowski, senior director of strategic development, new business at Comcast Cable, said. The beta trial is focused on usability and gathering feedback as Comcast and EA firm up their go-to-market strategy before the full launch, he said.
The new Comcast-EA service is sort of a tweener — it’s not designed to compete directly with powerful, gaming consoles such as the Xbox One or PlayStation 4, but it’s definitely a step above some of the simpler games providers such as Cablevision Systems and AT&T U-verse are offering on their set-top boxes. The approach does appear to put Comcast’s X1 platform in closer proximity to the caliber of games that are available from streaming platforms such as Amazon Fire TV.
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