Three Reasons Cable’s Streaming Games Gamble Will Fail

Senior Contributor
09.25.12 10 Comments

So, according to Bloomberg, your beloved cable provider would like to make your beloved console obsolete.

Oh, they have all sorts of plans, generally surrounding streaming games directly to you, the consumer, and bypassing consoles completely. They see a lot of money in this. So much money, in fact, that pilot programs will be launching later this year to fight nobly for your gaming dollars.

You may have noticed just a slight tinge of sarcasm and skepticism in the above, and it’s for excellent reason. I follow cable companies closely for the same reason Republicans put Obama and Democrats put Romney under microscopes; watching them screw up is hilarious.

And watching cable try to compete with gaming companies and fail will be hilarious. And they will fail. Here’s why.

The Inevitable Net Neutrality Challenge

Comcast has essentially taken the attitude that data comes from two places: The grubby public Internet data, which probably has AIDS (especially those dangerous streaming video services), and Comcast’s pristine land of elves and fairies.

Complicating the matter is the fact that all this data goes across the same wires, into the same plug.

Cable companies are already having trouble selling this line of crap to customers and the government over streaming video. It’s going to become even worse when they inevitably try to choke off Steam, Xbox Live, and PlayStation Network because of “system use issues”.

The “Deal” Will Suck

I’m just going to take a wild shot in the dark here and assume that in order to play these games, you’ll need a fancy cable box. Which you’ll either have to buy for an offensively inflated price, or rent for an offensively inflated price. Similarly, the controller will likely not be something you can buy yourself, but something you will also have to rent with a possible buying option.

And then there are the games. If you buy a game from a cable provider, and then switch cable providers, or stop getting cable entirely, it’s not like they’re going to send you a free disc or something. It’s hard to see what consumer is going to actually go for this when they might as well buy a console that acts as a cable box anyway.

The Prices Will Never Drop

What we’re going to see here is history repeating itself. Cable companies have been trying for, quite literally, decades to get you to buy movies and TV shows from them instead of watching them at broadcast, or renting them from someone else.

This has failed miserably, every time. Video-on-demand content has largely shifted over to Netflix and Amazon Instant Video because, well, they’re cheaper. Cable stubbornly refuses to lower its prices on anything.

So, let’s say a year from now, you want to play Borderlands 2. What makes more sense? Picking up a used console for $100 or the game for $20? Or paying $60 for the game on a cable box that will run you $120 to own?

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