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Cable/Video

Comcast Begins EA Games Pilot

The gaming service that Comcast has been developing with Electronic Arts is starting up in Atlanta, according to an informed source within the MSO.

Since last month's discovery that Comcast Corp. is testing the new Xfinity Games service in partnership with Electronic Arts Inc. (Nasdaq: ERTS), there's been no official word on the trial from either company. But Light Reading has learned from an unofficial source within Comcast that the pilot is starting in Atlanta. To join the trial, customers must have a new, IP video-enabled X1 settop box and be invited by Comcast to participate.

Comcast has promised to deliver "console-quality video games" as part of the new service, but some of the most beloved titles in the EA catalogue aren't included in the trial. For instance, no Madden NFL games are up for offer, the source said, though other popular sports titles, such as FIFA Soccer and NBA Jam, appear in screenshots for the Xfinity Games app on iTunes.

The Xfinity Games app is designed to turn an iPad into a controller for games delivered to the X1 settop. It launched nearly a month ago, but Comcast has been silent about both the app and the accompanying Xfinity Games service.

The app was developed by a Comcast group based in Silicon Valley. Just 10 days after the Xfinity Games app hit the iTunes store, the same group released a family messaging app called Family Point. (See: Comcast Debuts Family Messaging App).

— Mari Silbey, Special to Light Reading Cable

mendyk 9/10/2013 | 11:12:41 AM
Re: "Console Quality Games" Have these operator/game developer partnerships ever worked? Seems like variations on this theme have been around for 20 years.
albreznick 9/9/2013 | 9:26:05 PM
Re: "Console Quality Games" My bet is that Comcast and EA will go after casual gamers more than the really serious ones. But it will be interesting to see how they pursue that strategy. And it will be interesting to see how they price the service. How much do you think would be a fair monthly price for what they're planning to offer? 
reboot0 9/9/2013 | 4:51:41 PM
Re: "Console Quality Games" "I have a hard time believing that device has enough firepower for anything substantive."

 

OnLive does all of their graphics rendering on their servers, and then just beams the video feed down to the user.

 

So, graphics power of the set-top box is not an issue. 

 

Latency between when a gamer touches their controller, and when they see the resulting effect on their screen is the big issue here.

 

But a carrier might be in the best position to optimize that.
KBode 9/9/2013 | 1:10:11 PM
Re: "Console Quality Games" "Now this is hard for 2 reasons...First, the folks at the top of the carriers are not gamers and are not attached to the culture at all.  Second (and this is more insiduous), gamers are noted as this weird group that is outside the norm (now this is put out by the non-gamer content producers since there is huge competition there) when in fact the majority of Americans are gamers (at least casually)."

I get the sense that ISP executives just see the possible money from some sectors they've got no skill or history with (like casual games) and their eyes light up, with implementation and service quality often being secondary toward stumbling a little blindly to a new revenue stream.

Real gamers are fickle and put off by low quality (and EA's business practices), casual gamers are more forgiving but only if the system is simple and easy to use.

I do agree there's an in there for a service lik OnLive (which if I recall correctly, AT&T invested in), but I'd be hard pressed to put money down on an ISP being the company that truly innovates and succeeds in that space for many of the reasons you illustrate.
brookseven 9/9/2013 | 11:39:45 AM
Re: "Console Quality Games" kbode,

Did you ever use Onlive?  I didn't but this was the promise that it had.

But yeah there are 2 basic problems:

1 - Gamers are VERY suspicious of EA (and Sony is pretty well disliked by gamers as well).

2 - If the hot titles are not there, then nobody will want it.

I do think there are plenty of things that can be done that gamers would actually like.  Low latency servers on the local network, Guild/Clan tools, billing services, and VoIP servers would all be examples of that.

What has happened to date, because it is easy, is that the game services that the carriers have put in place cater to the game companies.  That is the problem...they need to start with - "What does a gamer want?" and then figure out how to make it work for a game content company.

Now this is hard for 2 reasons...First, the folks at the top of the carriers are not gamers and are not attached to the culture at all.  Second (and this is more insiduous), gamers are noted as this weird group that is outside the norm (now this is put out by the non-gamer content producers since there is huge competition there) when in fact the majority of Americans are gamers (at least casually).

This cultural divide creates a barrier for the carriers to talk to their consumers who will be buying the service.

seven

 
KBode 9/9/2013 | 10:33:47 AM
"Console Quality Games" I wonder if by "console quality video games" they mean console quality video games circa 2003? I have a hard time believing that device has enough firepower for anything substantive. I'm sure that there's plenty of money to be made off of more simple games aimed at a broader audience, though historically I think the GUI on these kinds of offerings (like in hotels) has been just abysmal. Curious if this is a serious effort or an afterthought...
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