Comcast and EA have partnered up to tackle the family-gaming market. Their strategy? Pipe the games right into your home with a new streaming service.
Xfinity Games powered by EA uses the X1 Entertainment system to stream games to your television. It’s been in the works now for about three years. There’s no controller—all the games are compatible with iPads generation 3 and 4, as well as iPhones from generation 5 and up. For Android users, devices are limited to the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 and 4, and the Samsung S4 phone. According to Polygon, 5 million homes have the X1 Entertainment set-top box. February estimates put the install-base of Xbox One and PlayStation 4 units combined at 28 million, a number that was predicted to double by the end of the year.
On the other hand, the iPhone alone has sold units in the double-digit millions as well. Comcast could be looking to game-streaming to bolster installation of the X1 set-top, after a year in which Comcast saw Internet-only subscribers overtake cable subscribers for the first time.
So what can we expect from Xfinity Games? Not just games from publisher EA, apparently. Xfinity Games currently boasts 23 titles in its beta, and EA Marketing VP Katrina Strafford told Polygon that non-EA titles will be featured, based on EA’s relationship with publishers across the industry. Whatever games do end up on Xfinity Games, they’ll have to work with phones or tablets in place of controllers.
The full list of games is available on Comcast’s site. So far it includes Plants vs. Zombies, FIFA 2013 (and some other sports games including NBA Jam and PGA Tour), World of Goo, Little Inferno, and Peggle Nights. Sports games are popular, and the inclusion of a quirky indie game like Little Inferno is interesting, to say the least. According to EA, these games are aimed at “this new audience that we think we can reach in partnership with Comcast on the X1,” which is to say, families. Comcast has been shedding millennial television subscribers for years, and it’s parents with children who will most likely be using this service.
So far, by the way, there’s no price tag on this. The beta service is offering the games for free, as Comcast susses out what exactly its customers want.
This isn’t the only game streaming service. PlayStation Now has been in beta since 2014 and offers over 100 games for most of Sony’s devices, at $20 for a single-month subscription. Sony launched PlayStation Now after snagging the failed game-streaming ingenue Gaikai. This year, Sony also purchased Gaikai’s competitor, Onlive. Both services had failed to give customers reliable streaming.
The most important factor in streaming, as anyone with Netflix will know, is Internet speed. Netflix and Hulu work because those videos load in predictable quality on your device depending on your bandwidth. Games are a little trickier, a little more dynamic. Waiting to buffer a video is annoying, but experiencing lag in a game that depends on correct input from the user is untenable. It’s what killed Onlive.
PlayStation Now solved that problem with slight graphical downgrade, and it looks like Xfinity Games is going the same route, with its games running at a maximum of 720p. The support of an ISP like Comcast could be what game streaming needs to break out of the console market and into the realm of television subscribers.