It's a set-top! It's an app machine! It's a game console!
Nearly two years after Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) started testing a pilot service that streams Electronic Arts Inc. (Nasdaq: ERTS) game titles to an X1 set-top, the cable company is finally closing in on a launch. (See Comcast Begins EA Games Pilot.)
DSLReports was the first to share the news, with details from an inside source who claims Comcast will release the service in beta to 100,000 subscribers on July 30, followed by a formal launch later in the summer. Light Reading has since confirmed with an additional source that the service is expected to be available soon. The source said he is scheduled to gain access to the gaming app within a week.
The new on-demand service will include several dozen rotating titles from EA including FIFA and Madden selections, along with more casual games. According to the DSLReports story, the service will be available for $10 per month to X1 subscribers, and customers will use their own smartphones and tablets as game controllers.
Comcast isn't the only cable company to try out a subscription gaming service. Cox Communications Inc. also experimented with an offering called flarePlay about the same time it piloted the flareWatch IPTV service in Orange County, Calif. in conjunction with Fanhattan. (Fanhattan has since been acquired by Rovi Corp. ) However, flareWatch burned out pretty quickly, and it doesn't appear that flarePlay ever really got off the ground. (See Cox's IPTV Trial Flames Out.)
In contrast, Comcast seems intent on bringing EA games to X1 set-tops across the country.
If the gaming service is successful, it will give Comcast a new revenue stream built on top of its existing broadband network. The service could also put a strain on network bandwidth, but Comcast has been aggressive in recent years about expanding capacity by pushing fiber deeper into its networks. The company plans to launch its multi-gigabit Gigabit Pro service sometime this year and expects to roll out additional gigabit markets with the help of DOCSIS 3.1 technology in 2016. (See Comcast Goes N+0 in Gigabit Markets and Comcast Tees Up More Gigabit Markets.)
— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading