Cox Communications has been quietly testing a subscription gaming service that streams titles to the TV via a special broadband-connected “Microconsole” that is paired to a handheld controller.
That family-friendly service, called flarePlay, has been available in beta form for about 18 months, though marketing on it did not get underway until early 2015, Cox spokesman Todd Smith said.
flarePlay is a national service that isn’t confined to Cox’s traditional cable footprint (the service exceptions are North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Hawaii, and Arkansas, according to the service’s Web site). flarePlay is being marketed and sold digitally via its Web site as well as at some brick-and-mortar stores, including dozens of Cox Solutions Stores and Toys R Us outlets in cities such as Thornton, Colo., Redwood City, Calif.; and Memphis, Tenn.
The service offers unlimited play from a library that’s stocked with more than 150 titles. A baseline “Disney Games” package sells for $9.99 per month and features Disney-focused titles such as Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, Lego Pirate of the Caribbean: The Video Game, Cars, Tangled and G-Force. flarePlay also offers a “Premium” package for $9.99 per month (sample titles include Broken Sword 3: The Sleeping Dragon, Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, Star Defender; and a $14.99 per month Combo Game Pack that includes the service's full gaming library.
Subscribers must also pony up $29.99 for a kit that includes the flarePlay Microconsole, a controller and the required cables. All games are streamed to the television through the Microconsole, which connects to the TV via HDMI.
Though Cox has done a good job keeping a lid on flarePlay, the service’s Facebook page has tallied more than 26,000 “Likes.” The service also shows up on Amazon.com and, at last check, has 11 reviews.
The company won’t announce subscriber figures for flarePlay, but “we’ve seen good response from it so far,” Smith “We plan to continue to add content to it in the near future. Video gaming is a very good, big space, and we think there’s an opportunity there.”
Cox isn’t bundling flarePlay with its cable offerings or integrating it with cable set-tops. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find the Cox name on the flarePlay Web site (Green Lane Innovations, a unit of Cox that focuses on and incubates new business opportunities, is the division associated with flarePlay).
“It’s a completely separate brand,” Smith explained.
Still, Cox isn’t the only operator that’s banking on TV-based video gaming strategies. Comcast and Electronic Arts have teamed on a beta trial of a service called XFINITY Games powered by EA that runs on the MSO’s X1 platform. Instead of using a separate gaming controller, those users control games via smartphones and tablets.
flarePlay is just one of a growing number of Cox offerings to don the “flare” brand. In 2013, Cox tested (and later shutdown) flareWatch, an IP-based TV service for cord-cutters that was offered in Orange County. Cox continues to market and sell MyFlare, a Dropbox-like, cloud-based media storage and sharing service.
For more on flarePlay, check out this video:
This video presents a walk-through of the flarePlay installation procedure: