Game of Thrones is finally back. HBO’s vision of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy saga began April 6, and assuming you haven’t given up all hope following the bloodbath that was the season three finale, you won’t want to miss a second of the political turmoil and morally ambiguous lust characterizing the premier.
The highly-praised show is poised to become the most-pirated show of 2014 before it even really gets going — likely continuing its two-year reign as such — but it remains an HBO-exclusive nearly three years after its initial debut. HBO programming president Michael Lombardo may view the show’s pirating exploits on BitTorrent as a compliment, but unfortunately, it doesn’t make locating that proper stream or flagship torrent any easier sans an official HBO subscription and bundled app.
Here’s our quick-hit guide on how to watch and catch up on Game of Thrones online, whether purchasing HBO’s premium package, purchasing past seasons on Amazon, or opting for less wholesome methods. You may have to wait until late 2014 for forthcoming Telltale Games’ bevy of GoT titles, but at least you can binge watch the first three-and-a-half seasons to your heart’s content. Then again, I don’t know if my heart could take watching the Red Wedding again.
Update on April 8, 2014: Xbox Live members can stream the season 4 premiere of Game of Thrones for free, courtesy of Microsoft and HBO, on the Xbox 360 and Xbox One through April 14. Simply sign in to Xbox Live as you would normally, select the featured Game of Thrones tile, and choose the episode from the resulting video content. Entitled “Two Swords,” the episode debuted exclusively on HBO on April 6, but users don’t need an HBO Go subscription or even an Xbox Live Gold membership to stream the premiere.
Stream episodes using HBO GO (cable and HBO subscription required)
Content is king, and no one provides content better than the source itself. HBO has always showcased a stellar lineup of original programming in addition to theatrically-released films and television specials, beginning with network’s first forays into original programming in the late ’70s. That said, the company offers nearly all of its original programming — along with the vast swath films currently playing on the premium channel — bundled within the network’s accompanying app and the website. Dubbed HBO Go, the app allows HBO subscribers to access and stream said content on demand in high definition, simultaneously granting them access to entire seasons of shows like The Sopranos and Game of Thrones.
However, although HBO is considering offering the programming without a cable subscription, users are still currently required to purchase a premium HBO package. Assuming you already have cable, an HBO subscription will cost you an upwards of $15, with the exact rate fluctuating based on your region and available promotions. HBO Go is free with your subscription through participating TV provides, and once subscribed, users can access HBO Go content online or through the network’s accompanying app. Available platforms depend on your service provider, but the app is typically accessible via the Xbox 360, Google Chromecast, Roku, Kindle, iOS, and Android devices. The best part? HBO Go subscribers can catch up on all three seasons of Game of Thrones and even stream the latest episodes immediately upon airing.
Purchase episodes through a digital retailer ($2.99+ an episode)
Cable cutting isn’t merely a passing trends — it’s here to stay. Online digital retailers such as Amazon and Apple have been offering digital content for users, allowing consumers to purchase full-length episode and entire seasons of their favorite shows quickly upon airing or sometime after the season has run its course. That said, Game of Thrones is no different. Amazon, Apple, and Google allow viewers to purchase and stream individual episodes and all three seasons of the show thus far for a premium price. Pricing is comparable across the board, with all three retailers offering the same selection of episodes, but prospective viewers will have to pay extra for high-definition content. Moreover, Amazon is currently the only digital retailer offering both standard and high-definition episodes. Obviously the prices quickly add up, but viewers can catch up on past episodes of Game of Thrones sans a cable subscription and premium HBO package likely totaling $65 a month.
|Store||Price per episode||Price per season|
|Amazon||$2.99 SD/$3.99 HD||$28.99 SD/$38.99 HD|
|iTunes Store||$3.99 HD||$38.99 HD|
|Google Play||$2.99 SD||$28.99 SD|
The most controversial and questionable websites often provide the most convenience and instant allure. Kim Dotcom’s MegaUpload was once the undisputed champion of remote file storage and viewing, eventually succumbing to piracy issues and rampant copyright infringement. As with any software, a bevy of similar hosting websites and portals appeared in its stead. All of them are prone to subpar video quality and riddled with pop-up advertisements, not to mention malware, and they also manage to provide links and subsequent access to nearly any type of media content you desire.
Moreover, they’re entirely free if you can manage to locate the correct link and don’t mind legal prosecution. Most streaming sites work in a similar vain, requiring users to navigate a sea of hyperlinks and season catalogs. The most popular include Project-Free TV, PutLocker, and Watchgot.net. Project-Free TV isn’t the most attractive site, but some of the best rarely are. Clad in an orange-and-purple design, the site lists an onslaught of assorted links for each episode of the series, complete with average load times, the name of the host site, submission date, and other information.
Whereas Project-Free TV relies on a slew of potential hosting sites for viewing videos, PutLocker merely display one link per episode. The site lists all episodes on a single page with a charcoal-grey Watch link accompanying each, with the latest episode residing at the top and the first season displayed at the bottom.
Watchgot.net provides the viewing access to all three seasons of the show, along with trailers — and legal inquires for HBO representatives and law enforcement agencies. Users can quickly peruse the tabs beneath the banner image to locate their desired episode, and once found, the site provides a plethora of tabbed videos from hosting sites like DailyMotion and MP4Uploads. The site also sports its own Facebook page. If there ever was a site attempting to hide from the public eye, Watchgot.net isn’t it.
We don’t endorse piracy, and don’t recommend you visit any of these sites. But if you do, protect yourself first: Check out our picks for the best free antivirus software and the best free antivirus software for Mac if you’re not already protected.
The Web can be a scary place, especially when navigating its darker regions.