Detailed in a report published by Reuters earlier today, Comcast is working towards a partnership with Electronic Arts that will allow customers the ability to stream video games to the cable box. After two years of testing the streaming platform, Comcast believes that subscribers will be satisfied with a streaming version of sports games within the Madden and FIFA franchises. Conceptually, this could create a new competitor to both Microsoft and Sony in that Comcast has an existing subscriber base of approximately 22 million users.
However, streaming video games will require Comcast’s X1 cable box within the home. According to Bloomberg, Comcast is distributing approximately 15,000 to 20,000 new x1 boxes in subscriber homes each day. The X1 is a cloud connected box that provides access to numerous Internet applications, an extensive search platform that includes voice support and a 4-tuner HD DVR as well as whole-home DVR access with compatible boxes at other televisions in the residence.
Based on previous tests, it’s highly likely that the streaming platform will be powered by EA’s Origin and could be compatible with smartphones or tablets when it comes to controls. It’s also possible that Comcast or Electronic Arts would provide the option of a generic gaming controller when the X1 box is installed within the home.
According to sources familiar with the platform, the game catalog will primarily focus on casual games that are easily controlled with a tablet as well as large franchises like Madden. However, it’s possible that action games like first-person shooters will be added if streaming access is stable enough for quick action sequences. This type of catalog would also directly compete with Amazon’s Fire TV set-top box, a platform that’s designed for both casual and advanced games.
When a subscriber uses the service, it would be very similar to purchasing video content through pay-per-view. Assuming the streaming platform is successful, it could hypothetically provide a rental platform that would funnel rental revenues directly into Electronic Arts. However, it’s unclear if Comcast would also charge for access to the service or to video game hardware associated with the service. Cable companies are notorious for breaking out services into additional fees on the bill each month, thus charging a rental fee for a video game controller wouldn’t exactly be outlandish.
It’s also possible that games could be directly downloaded to the X1 hardware rather than relying solely on the stability of a stream. The X1 hardware offers a 500GB hard drive, identical to the size that’s offered within the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. However, video game software stored on the hard drive would be competing for space with recorded video content, a problem that’s far less prevalent on the Xbox One or PS4.
Of course, the streaming aspect of this service will be competing directly with Sony’s PlayStation Now streaming service. Currently in a private beta, PlayStation Now will provide streaming access to the PS3 library of games when using the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 or the PlayStation Vita. In addition, support for 2014 Sony BRAVIA televisions as well as tablets and smartphones will roll out at a later date.