Comcast officially launched the beta test of Xfinity Games Tuesday, bringing a little more than 20 videogame titles to its X1 set-top boxes. The cable company has partnered with Electronics Arts on the service, with games available at launch including titles from popular EA franchises like “Plants vs. Zombies,” “PGA Tour” and EA’s FIFA soccer games.
Each title has been customized to work with the X1, and all of them work without the need for any downloads. EA is instead streaming the games to Comcast’s cable boxes, much in the same way video services stream a TV show or a movie to a set-top box.
Users also don’t need to buy any game pads to play titles accessed through the service, but instead simply access a special website with their mobile devices, and then use their iPhone or Android phone as a game controller. The idea was to use “what people already have in their home,” said Comcast senior director for strategic development Bryan Witkowski in an interview. He added that the service is targeting mobile and casual gamers, not console gaming fans.
Xfinity Games will be free for the time being, but Comcast is exploring a number of different options to monetize the platform down the line, including a monthly subscription fee or one-off rental fees, said exec director of product management Preston Smalley.
Comcast has been testing Xfinity Games internally for some time; first reports about the partnership between the cable giant and EA surfaced more than a year ago. EA VP of marketing Katrina Strafford said the service initially will include only EA games, but added that both companies are entertaining the option to open it up to other game publishers down the line.
Xfinity Games is one of a number of Comcast initiatives aimed at retaining customers and increasing revenue, as the cable giant’s TV subs continue to dwindle and consumers look for alternatives to traditional pay TV. Earlier this week, Comcast unveiled a new service called Stream that offers Internet-only customers a combination of HBO and broadcast TV streamed to mobile devices for just $15 a month.