Comcast’s X1 Puts On Its Game Face

Teams with EA on Consumer Beta Launch of Gaming Service
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Following several months of employee testing, Comcast and Electronics Arts have kicked off a broader consumer beta trial of a service that will initially make about two dozen gaming titles available via the MSO’s IP-capable X1 platform.

The service, called XFINITY Games powered by EA, is being made available to a select group of X1 customers, who can sign up for it at xfinitygames.com.

Residing in the X1’s entertainment and media section, the new gaming service will initially feature 24 titles, including games from EA’s FIFA and PGA franchises as well as some home-grown EA games. Comcast will stream those games to X1 set-top boxes via the Internet. EA plans to add more titles later.

Players will use tablets and smartphones to control the games by pairing them to X1 set-tops over WiFi. Those 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.

Comcast has not announced a commercial launch date or how it intends to price the service (it will be available for free during the consumer trial). Last month, DSL Reports reported that Comcast and EA were considering a rotating package of about 50 games for about $10 per month.

“We have a few ideas in mind,” Bryan Witkowski, senior director of strategic development, new business, at Comcast Cable, said. The focus of the beta trial, he said, is on usability and gathering feedback as Comcast and EA firm up their go-to-market strategy before the commercial launch.

“We really want to double-down on getting the player feedback and making sure the service is right,” Katrina Strafford, EA’s vice president of marketing, said. “We think it will provide us with a new way to put our games in front of a new audience." 

Witkowski said the service is made to appeal to families and casual gamers while also drawing consumers who love to play games on mobile devices but have not been playing games as often on the TV as they did in days past.

“We’ve been looking to get in the game space for a long time and we were waiting for just the right opportunity to have the right product construct for the market we're thinking about,” he said, noting that a key aim has been to create a system that “removes as many friction points as possible.”

That means no special downloads or the need for additional hardware, beyond the X1 box and a mobile device. “It’s all browser-driven,” Witkowski said.

Comcast hasn’t announced how many X1 customers will participate in this testing round. “We’ll continually add customers from the waiting list, as capacity grows,” Sam Schwartz, Comcast Cable’s chief business development officer, noted in this blog post about the new gaming service. “We’re looking for feedback as we test and tweak the experience and want people to play as much as they’d like so we can evaluate and improve the service.”

Comcast is deploying between 15,000 to 20,000 X1 boxes per day. At that rate, the MSO should have about 10 million deployed by now (last fall, Comcast said it had shipped about 5 million X1 boxes).

X1 boxes eligible for the service include the Pace XG1v1, Pace XG1v3, Arris XG1v1 and Pace Xi3v2.

More detail and analysis of the trial and its competitive implications will be covered in the Next TV section of the July 20 issue of Multichannel News and Broadcasting & Cable.

Here's a video that shows the new service in action: 

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