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Video game giant Electronic Arts and cable entertainment leader Comcast are teaming up to bring cloud-based video games to your television. With Xfinity Games, you’ll be able to play EA games for free using a smartphone or tablet in conjunction with a Comcast X1 set-top box.

Under the trial service, the game images will show up on your TV, and you’ll be able to swipe or tilt your mobile device to make things happen in the game. Your phone, for instance, could be the steering wheel for a racing game such as Real Racing 2. To play, you’ll need an X1 set-top box from Comcast — a machine that can deliver movies and TV shows over the Internet to your home. For the first time, Comcast is using the processing power of its cable box to deliver high-definition gaming experiences to the TV.

“We’ve been looking at the game market for many years, looking for the right opportunity to create a great experience for our customers,” said Bryan Witkowski, senior director of strategic development at Comcast, in an interview with GamesBeat.

The initial titles include Real Racing 2, PGA Golf Tour, Peggle Nights, and Plants vs. Zombies. Others will be released over time.

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EA’s chief creative director, Rich Hilleman, started experimenting with a set-top based cloud-gaming system a few years ago. Witkowski started talking to Hilleman a few years ago about the possibilities, and technology finally caught up with the goals of delivering games to a broader audience of people. With the X1 set-top box, the living room machine is finally able to deliver games via the cloud.

These games are aimed at people, like the parents of gamers, who wouldn’t ordinarily pick up a game controller, said Katrina Strafford, the vice president of marketing at EA, in an interview with GamesBeat. Those people are likely to be much more familiar with controlling mobile games given the reach of mobile devices. That’s made mobile a much more ideal control system for the games, Witkowski said.

“We would like EA’s role in this to being a content provider, like an HBO,” Strafford said. “We are approaching this in a different way, and we are really focused [on] intuitive pick-up and play. We tailored the games for this audience on the X1, with your mobile phone or tablet as the controller. You don’t have to buy additional equipment.”

Xfinity Games logo

Above: Xfinity Games logo

Image Credit: Comcast/EA

EA and Comcast concluded from their research that playing games with a TV remote wasn’t that fun. You can only press four directional buttons on a remote control, and that isn’t the easiest way to control games. That problem doomed a lot of TV-based games in the past.

“Casual gamers primarily play on mobile devices, and we saw this as an opportunity to bring them back to the TV set,” Witkowski said. “The work that EA has done with the mobile-device control has unlocked richer games. We wanted to remove the friction. There’s no new hardware. No visit to the retail store. And it works with X1.”

Witkowski knew that the company needed a wide variety of games that were easy to pick up and play. That’s why Comcast is partnering with EA on the free beta test. The games will be streamed over the Internet to eligible customers’ X1 set-top boxes. No downloads, consoles, or extra equipment are required.

Comcast is targeting families with kids and “lapsed gamers.”

You can apply for the beta test at Xfinity Games. Once approved, you can get the Xfinity Games Powered by EA app on the X1 apps page on the TV. You then have to pair your mobile device with the X1. You take your mobile device’s web browser and go to Xfin.tv/play. Then you put in a seven-digit number, and the device pairs with your X1 machine. You only have to pair the mobile device once. You can then launch a game from your smartphone or tablet.

EA and Comcast employees are already playing the games. Strafford said that many more games will be added over time.

There’s no announced business model yet, and the initial service is free. The test will roll out over the summer. The games are treated like other Internet traffic and would count under any Xfinity Internet data plans.

By streaming the games, Comcast can swap out games as needed and keep the content fresh, Witkowski said.

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