Can Comcast Compete With Game Consoles and More?

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

A new challenger enters — or any phrase along those lines — would likely ring in the ears of gamers anywhere upon hearing that Comcast has plans to get a competitive place in the gaming universe by partnering with another big name, Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA), according to an exclusive Reuters report. The idea is to offer all the living room fun of a console with a lot more ease and what may feel like a lot less expense, but the reality might not be as planned.

According to the report, inside sources informed Reuters that Comcast was making arrangements with EA to stream certain video games through its X1 cable box — and yes, that is one word and a small shift away from sounding a lot like Xbox One, but it’s a long way away from being like one. It wouldn’t be the first company to pull a trick like this in the living room, but it’s doing it in a less common way, and with competitors nipping at it from all around, it had little choice.

The system would function by using cloud-gaming, since the X1 cable box is by no means a gaming machine with all the processing powers or GPU performance necessary to handle crunching modern game data, though it is powerful as far as cable  boxes go, offering more in the way of apps and functionality, according to Reuters‘ sources. Cloud-gaming does all the processing in servers elsewhere, then streams the visuals and audio back to a screen for the player to see and respond to — it’s essentially like having a controller and screen that are wirelessly connected to a gaming console that is very far away from the living room.

For the past few years, high-speed Internet has offered an avenue for challenging TV as it had existed in the past. Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) has taken opportunities to challenge it. Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) Apple TV and Amazon’s (NASDAQ:AMZN) Fire TV are both on board. The major gaming consoles from Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Sony (NYSE:SNE), and Nintendo (NTDOY.PK) have also all acknowledged the need to support these media platforms. It’s a threat Comcast and cable providers can’t ignore, or both risk losing the valuable living rooms across the country.

With all these threats and more, Comcast has struggled. One of its most recent defensive moves was to try acquiring Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC), which would boost the cable company’s subscriber base to 30 million users, according to Forbes, and make it the biggest cable provider in the country if it receives regulatory approval. The company has already begun adding various movie rental and streaming services to try combating the encroachment of other media companies, and the video games will be a counter-offensive on another attack on the living room made by gaming consoles when they tried to become the centerpieces of home multimedia centers.

What may sound like a strong move by Comcast that could threaten all those that were seeking to steal the living room may not be such a big deal. For one, the service is likely to cost a premium, and those willing to pay it would seem more likely to fall in-line with the core gamer category that likely already have next-gen consoles or plans to get one. The game offerings appear limited, as only FIFAMaddenMonopoly, and Plants vs. Zombies were mentioned by name by Reuters’ sources. Meanwhile, Sony has already announced plans to offer cloud-gaming access to critically acclaimed PS3 titles on its gaming systems. Cloud-gaming as a whole has an uncertain future as input lag — the time between a button being pressed and the result appearing on screen – may be significantly longer when commands have to travel to a distant server and back, and even if it is fast it may be compressed and lack visual quality.

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