Note: The free version of Gamecenter is essentially a highlights-and-stats app for both consoles and mobile devices. This review covers the premium version.
The new NHL season is upon us, and with it, fans are inundated with advertisements to purchase NHL Center Ice (the TV package) or NHL Gamecenter Live (its online counterpart). For years, Center Ice was the most convenient way to get wall to wall NHL action. However, in recent years the functionality of NHL Gamecenter has propelled it to the forefront. The new iteration of Gamecenter is upon us, which leaves two big questions. First, is it any different from last year’s version? Second, is it worth your money?
Streaming: NHL Gamecenter is essentially an on-demand app for your consoles and mobile devices. Any locally broadcast NHL game is now available for streaming, usually with both home and away feeds.
DVR Capabilities: Start, pause, and replay games on demand. For example, if you want to watch a complete game that’s already in the middle of the second period, you have the option to watch live or start from the beginning.
Cost: While Center Ice is priced by each individual telco provider, Gamecenter is a flat fee through the NHL. That means that in some cases, it will be anywhere from US$10 to US$30 cheaper than getting the TV package.
Multiple devices in multiple formats: One Gamecenter purchase enables the app in all its forms: PC, console, and mobile. This is important because each of these is different. The PC version is the most robust, with all sorts of features such as picture-in-picture and live data. The tablet form offers all video feeds, highlights, exclusive content, and news/stats. The console form is barebones: game feeds/highlights and stats. One improvement over last year is a unified login, so you can activate Gamecenter on your device or console without having to find a computer for verification.
Improved UI: While the console version is essentially the same as last year, both the app and PC versions have improved user interface designs. Streamlined, simplified, and modernized, the best way to sum it up is to say that it’s simply easier to get what you want.
Blackout rules: Sorry, you’re not going to be able to watch your local team without a proxy server. Also, you can forget about any national games — anything broadcast on NBC or the NHL Network means it’s not available on Gamecenter. Note that these blackout rules also apply to Center Ice.
Quality: With the TV package, you’re getting consistent HD-quality video (assuming your provider supports the HD broadcasts). With Gamecenter, it’s up to your Internet connection and wi-fi speed. This leads to buffering and quality-downgrade issues. For us, frame rate was a consistent problem on our standard AT&T UVerse connection with wi-fi.
NHL Gamecenter Live provides the same game access as Center Ice, along with extra video/text content and the ability to restart games as they’re broadcast. In addition, your subscription propagates to numerous devices. The trade off is video quality. If you’re willing to deal with hiccups in streaming quality, NHL Gamecenter provides people with consoles and mobile devices a more robust experience than the standard TV package.
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below what you think of NHL Gamecenter Live 2014-15 App.