Just yesterday we talked about Comcast's new streaming TV service, which I think is an interesting experiment for the company. Today we're going to talk about Comcast again: now they're streaming games.
In this context, streaming games means running the game on hardware in a datacenter and just streaming input and output to a client on the player's end of things. The idea is the gamer doesn't have to spend a lot on hardware or even hassle with installing and patching titles.
A lot of companies have tried to make streaming games work. Most recently I gave Gamefly's streaming a try and found it somewhat lacking. At one time OnLive was the big name in game streaming but they couldn't make it work; the company is no longer operating its service. Arguably Sony's Playstation Now is the most successful game streaming service but I don't get the sense that it's a huge hit.
Comcast's offering is pretty conservative. It is limited to 'casual' games, most of them from Electronic Arts, and you don't even need a gamepad to play; you'll use your smartphone or tablet as a controller.
Comcast is taking sign-ups for a beta now, but you'll need to be using an X1 set-top box to participate. Right now 22 games are on offer but Comcast says they'll be adding more.
I'm not a Comcast customer so can't take this for a spin but most of the games look like they're probably available on mobile devices anyway. That seems to be the point, in fact. Comcast is trying to get people who don't self-identify as gamers, but who might play a game on their tablet or phone now and then, to give gaming on the TV a try. To make that a super easy transition the controls will be similar to what mobile device players are used to.
The beta is free and it's not clear how much Comcast will charge once the service launches. Hopefully they'll either keep the price very low, or roll out some more in-depth titles; otherwise I'm not sure why you wouldn't just keep playing on your tablet. Heck maybe they could make it free or even ad-supported.