Unnamed sources told Reuters on Monday that Comcast is close to finalizing a deal to stream games from Electronic Arts (EA) to its cloud-connected X1 cable box system. The two companies have been testing this unannounced service for the last two years, and will likely include the "FIFA," "Madden," "Monopoly" and "Plants vs. Zombies" franchises.
Sources said that Comcast and EA want the system to be simple, allowing subscribers to make game purchases just like they do with pay-per-view movies. Customers will also be able to use their tablets as controllers. Unfortunately, the report doesn't go into specific details such as separate wired or wireless controllers.
XFINITY TV on the X1 Platform already provides an app-like experience, allowing users to access Facebook, Pandora, the weather, headlines, local traffic and so on. Presumably, Comcast would roll out a Games app (if there isn't one already) allowing customers to purchase the right to stream specific titles. Shortcuts to these games may be placed on the XFINITY TV home screen.
The unconfirmed service arrives as traditional media providers like Comcast and Time Warner feel the financial pinch from customers "cutting the cord." Online services like Netflix, Hulu Plus and even Vudu are making it hard for cable companies to compete. Services such as apps for watching live TV on any device and cable subscription requirements for using HBO Go and Max Go keep the cable companies competitive.
Reuters reports that Comcast in particular has "beefed" up its X1 to provide more new features in light of customers possibly defecting to Apple TV, Amazon's Fire TV and Google's Chromecast. Of the three, Fire TV is the biggest threat, offering original content, exclusive programming and a huge number of Android games. Like Amazon, Comcast also provides movies for purchase and streaming.
For EA, this gaming deal will open a new stream of revenue to help take the edge off "sagging" software sales. But how much will these games cost? The same as digital versions? The boxed versions? Even more, could these games be streamed directly to a tablet or smartphone like OnLive's service in addition to the X1 set-top-box? Would you buy a game that can only be streamed?