Cox quietly challenges Comcast, Amazon and others with flarePlay gaming subscription service

Cox Communications, the nation's sixth largest pay-TV operator, quietly entered the video game space last year with its flarePlay video game subscription package. The offering is notable considering Comcast recently made a noisy -- albeit poorly received -- splash into the streaming video game business with its Xfinity Games service, which offers users access to a handful of EA games.

As first noted by Multichannel News, Cox's flarePlay service is not tied to the MSO's service footprint or pay-TV offerings. Instead, flarePlay is sold separately online across the country, allowing anyone with an HD TV to purchase a flarePlay console and controller for $29.99, and then pay a monthly fee to access games. The flarePlay service offers three plans: $9.99 per month for access to a range of Disney-themed games; $9.99 per month for access to a range of "premium" games; and $14.99 per month for access to all the 150-plus games on the service.

"We've seen good response from it so far," Cox spokesman Todd Smith told Multichannel News, declining to provide subscriber numbers for the service. "We plan to continue to add content to it in the near future. Video gaming is a very good, big space, and we think there's an opportunity there."

Smith told the publication the service has been available in beta form for the past 18 months, although Cox began marketing the service earlier this year.

So far, Cox is not pairing its flarePlay service with its existing cable and TV offerings. That approach is markedly different from Comcast's recent entry into the video games space: The company in July launched Xfinity Games into beta, offering around 20 EA video games to its X1 subscribers, including Plants vs. Zombies and PGA Tour, using Apple and Android smart phones and tablets as controllers. For now, the service is free, though a recent test of the service by Ars Technica found it "confusing" and "unfocused."

Cox and Comcast join a large and growing crowd of companies aiming at the intersection of TV and video games with streaming and subscription services. Microsoft and Sony already offer a range of TV and gaming subscriptions for their respective Xbox and PlayStation consoles, but Amazon, too, offers gaming through its Fire TV offering. And Google's Android TV also offers access to Android-based games. Meanwhile, Apple is widely expected to add gaming capabilities to its Apple TV service at some point in the future.

For more:
- see this Multichannel News article
- see this flarePlay site

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