As long rumored, Comcast has partnered with Electronic Arts to bring streaming games to its X1 customers. Sign-ups for the public beta begin today via xfinitygames.com, with entry being granted "within the next few days." The service will be free during the beta; representatives tell us no business model has been finalized for after the service leaves beta, which will last a "period of weeks to a minimum."
Xfinity Games will launch with 23 titles. The selection is being designed with families and casual gamers in mind. Controls will be handled via smartphone and tablet (no word on how, exactly, customers would pair the devices). "We create the content that fulfills the service," said Katrina Strafford, EA's VP of marketing, who likened the partnership to being a content provider like HBO. The companies provided a partial list of games prior to publication:
- Real Racing 2
- EA Sports FIFA Soccer 13 (note: not a typo)
- NBA Jam on Fire Edition
- EA Sports PGA Tour Golf
- Plants vs. Zombies
- Peggle Nights
- Word Whomp Underground
- World of Goo
Strafford notes that this is different from Origin, EA's gaming portal. That said, an Origin ID will be required (one per household) if you want to save your progress in a game.
Origin ID required for saving progress
Though very clearly targeting a more casual audience — I don't think a core gaming audience would be eager to play a three-year-old FIFA title — Xfinity Games is part of a wider trend of companies experimenting with cloud-based game streaming, including PlayStation Now (borne out of Sony's acquisition of Gaikai) and NVIDIA Grid, which is currently in its "free to try" stage for Shield customers until the end of the month. The goal is to make playing games "as easy as switching between channels," according to Comcast's executive director of product Preston Smalley. The Xfinity Games service will exist within the X1 platform, which recently added live-streaming and apps like Pandora.
Comcast says that you will need a high-speed data connection but wouldn't provide specifics on upload / download speed requirements. "If you sign up, you won't need to upgrade." Game streaming will be treated like any other internet traffic, and as such will count toward any customer with monthly data caps.
Just 5 million Comcast customers currently have X1
Though Smalley tells us X1 customer feedback is strong ("you name the metric, it's going well"), just 5 million of the company's over 22 million video customers have X1. In the last quarterly report, Comcast promised to accelerate deployment — according to Smalley, 15,000 to 20,000 new installations are happening daily. At that rate, between 8 and 10 million new X1 customers will be added by the end of 2016, when Comcast promises a majority of its customers will have X1. Technically 13–15 million is a majority, but at less than 70 percent of the customer base, it still feels light. Who knows, maybe 4K cable boxes will speed up the process?
Disclosure: Comcast Ventures is an investor in Vox Media, The Verge's parent company.