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First TV, Now Games: Comcast Starts Streaming Service With Electronic Arts

Free, for now. Bring your own controller.

Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Yesterday Comcast said it wanted to sell you TV, delivered over the Web. Today’s announcement: Comcast wants to sell you video games, delivered over the Web.

The biggest pay TV provider in the U.S. is linking up with games giant Electronic Arts to stream casual games to Comcast subscribers’ living rooms.

This is a deal we first heard about a full year ago, but it’s still in the test phases: Comcast says it will start trialing the game service, for free, to a randomly selected group of Comcast subscribers with the company’s newish X1 set-top boxes; people who are interested in trying it out can also apply via a website.

This stuff isn’t meant to replace your Xbox: The emphasis here is on casual games that people can play using a phone or tablet as a controller, and without the computing requirements of a heavy-duty game console. Think Plants vs. Zombies, not Battlefield. Comcast says the games will also be “windowed,” which means subscribers will play older versions of the games, so they won’t cut into sales of EA’s most recent titles.

Comcast’s Web TV announcement may be a bit hard to parse, for both consumers and investors. But even though Comcast hasn’t announced pricing or other details for the game service, this one is much more straightforward: It’s a value-added service for pay TV subscribers. Comcast can figure out if it wants to use it to generate additional revenue, or use it as a giveaway to keep people paying for its core service. Or both.

Another thing that’s straightforward about this one: Comcast says that any data the games consume while streaming over the Web will be counted in the company’s data plans.

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