Xbox Live (trademarked as Xbox LIVE) is an online multiplayer gaming and digital media delivery service created and operated by Microsoft Corporation. It was first made available to the Xbox video game console. An updated version of the service became available for the Xbox 360 console at that system's launch. The Windows Equivalent is Games for Windows - Live that makes certain aspects of the system available on Windows PCs, with plans to extend Live to other platforms such as handhelds and mobile phones as part of the Live Anywhere initiative.
Microsoft, however, hoped that the Xbox would succeed where the Dreamcast had failed. The company determined that intense online gaming required the throughput of a broadband connection and the storage space of a hard disk drive, and thus these PC-style features would be vital to the new platform. This would allow not only for significant downloadable content, such as new levels, maps, weapons, challenges and characters, to be downloaded quickly and stored, but also would make it possible to standardize bandwidth intensive features such as voice communication. Based on this reasoning, the console included a standard Ethernet port in order to provide connectivity to common broadband networks, but did not include a modem or any dial-up support, and its online service was designed to support broadband users only. Critics scoffed at the idea, citing poor broadband adoption at the turn of the century.
When the Xbox launched on November 15, 2001, the as-yet unnamed online service was destined for a Summer 2002 deployment. Xbox Live was finally given a name at E3 2002 when the service was unveiled in its entirety. Sound dampened booths and broadband connected Xbox consoles - featuring an early version of Unreal Championship - demonstrated the service on the show floor. The Epic title was one of the flagship titles for the service, which was slated for a debut on November 15, 2002, marking the anniversary of the Xbox launch. Microsoft announced that 50 Xbox Live titles would be available by the end of 2003. Utilizing the required broadband bandwidth, Xbox Live featured a unified gaming "Friends List", as well as a single identity across all titles (regardless of the publisher), and standardized voice chat and communication; a feature that was still in its infancy, even on the PC.
Leading up to the launch, Microsoft enlisted several waves of beta testers to improve the service and receive feature feedback. When the service debuted, it lacked much of the functionality that later titles included, but Xbox Live grew and evolved on the Xbox and many aspects of the service were included with the Xbox 360 console out of the box, rather than through a later update. Microsoft's 5000th patent was Live-related and gave Xbox 360 users access to watch other gamers compete against each other over Xbox Live.
The packaging for playable Xbox Live titles on the original Xbox console featured the trademark gold bar underneath the Xbox header. Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell and Brute Force sported a Live "bubble" design, as they only featured downloadable content. This was changed later, wherein all Xbox Live titles included the universal gold Live bar. By the time of the Xbox 360, all titles were required to provide at least a limited form of Xbox Live "awareness".
Xbox Live hit a milestone in July 2004, when it achieved 1 million subscribers; and again in March 2007, when it achieved 6 million subscribers. In August 2007, Xbox Live had over 7.1 million active users. On November 15, 2007 Microsoft celebrated Xbox Live's 5th anniversary by offering its then over 8 million subscribers the title Carcassonne free of charge and awarding gamers who had subscribed to Live since its inception 500 free Microsoft Points. Due to intermittent service interruptions during late December 2007 and early January 2008, Microsoft promised to offer a free Xbox Live Arcade game to all Xbox Live users as compensation, concluding that, Marc Whitten has released an open letter to all Xbox Live members. Increased demand from Xbox 360 purchasers (the largest number of new user sign-ups in the history of Xbox Live) was given as the reason for the downtime. On January 18, 2008, Microsoft announced Undertow would be offered free for the week starting January 23 through January 27 as compensation. The game was for both Silver and Gold users, so people who paid for their Xbox Live service got the same compensation as non payers.
Xbox Live has since passed the 10 million member mark for Gold and Silver subscribers. This occurred 6 months earlier than Microsoft originally anticipated. On May 14, 2008 Microsoft announced 12 million members.
Microsoft’s Entertainment & Devices President Robbie Bach claims that Xbox Live sets the 360 apart from its rivals. “Xbox Live is a big differentiator for us,” said Bach to investor.com, “That drives a significant amount of energy around what’s on with Xbox.” Bach cites the exclusive downloadable content for GTA IV as a reason why Microsoft’s online service is superior to its rivals.
Xbox Live exclusive servers are based in Seattle, Washington while using some of Microsoft's other servers in Quincy and Yakima, Washington.
Xbox Live Marketplace is a unified storefront which offers both free and premium content for download including Xbox Live Arcade titles, original Xbox games, Xbox 360 game demos, game expansion material (e.g. extra maps, vehicles, songs), trailers, gamer pictures and themes, television shows, music videos, movie rentals, and more.
Content is purchased using Microsoft Points.
A player's Gamertag account status can be checked using a variety of online tools, this is useful especially when looking for a new gamertag, or confirming a Gamertag exists.
Gamertags also contain avatar images (or "gamer pictures"), often associated with certain games or game characters. Individual gamerpics cost between 15 and 20 Microsoft Points, but they are usually bundled into packs; packs of four or five gamerpics usually cost 80 Microsoft Points, while packs of ten typically cost 150.
On February 1, 2007, Microsoft announced on their Gamerscore Blog some new policies that developers must follow related to Gamerscore and Achievements in future releases. All games must have 1,000 Gamerscore points in the base game - the title can ship with fewer than 1,000 points, but anything added later must be free. Game developers also now have the option of adding up to 250 points via downloadable content (for a total of 1,250 points) - this content can be either free or paid. Xbox Live Arcade titles may add up to 50 points via downloadable content (for a total of 250 points).
On March 25, 2008, Microsoft cracked down on "Gamerscore cheaters" (those who used "external tools" to artificially inflate their Gamerscore), and reduced their Gamerscores to zero without the option to recover the scores that had been "earned", and branded the player by denoting on their Gamertag that they were a "Cheater".
The Gamercard is an information panel used to summarize one's user profile on Microsoft's Xbox Live. The pieces of information on a Gamercard include:
A player's Gamercard can be viewed via the Xbox 360 Dashboard, or online through Xbox.com Third party sites allow users to post a rendered version of their Gamercard as a small Flash applet or JPEG image on any website or Internet forum.
Similarly, Mac OS X users can download widgets that display their Xbox Live Gamercard within Mac OS X's Dashboard. These can be downloaded onto any Mac with OS X 10.4 or higher via Apple's widget download page
When matchmaking, the system attempts to match individuals based on their estimated skill level. If two individuals are competing head-to-head and have the same estimated skill level with low estimate uncertainty, they should each have roughly a 50% chance of winning a match. In this way, the system attempts to make every match as competitive as possible.
In order to prevent abuse of the system, the majority of ranked games have relatively limited options for matchmaking. By design, players cannot easily play with their friends in ranked games. Instead, the system supports unranked Player Matches, which allow individuals of any skill level to be paired (often including "guests" on an account). Such matches do not contribute to the TrueSkill rating.
Windows Live Messenger allows users of Xbox Live, PCs (Both on the Windows and Macintosh platforms) and Windows Mobile devices to connect and directly message each other. It is possible to chat with up to six people at one time, while playing games, listening to music, or watching movies. This complements the existing voice and video chat of Xbox Live. Users will see at a glance if their existing contacts on Windows Live Messenger have Gamertags. As of the December 4, 2007 dashboard update, Windows Live Messenger on Xbox Live is now available to child accounts if the user is 13 years of age or older.
On September 4, 2007, Microsoft launched the Xbox 360 Messenger Kit, a small QWERTY keypad that will connect directly into the Xbox 360 controller to support text and instant messaging. Users can connect the keypad into any Xbox 360 controller (Wireless or Wired), and have the ability to write a message back, and get right back into any game or movie the user is playing.
One new feature is the ability to watch streaming movies and TV shows from Netflix onto the Xbox 360. This feature will be free to Xbox Live Gold members with Netflix Unlimited, and once enabled, users will be able to watch with their friends in a party with up to 8 players. Xbox Live members will have the ability to pick from over 10,000 movies and episodes, as if they were to choose on the website. But, when a player parties up with a group, they would also have the ability to join games together or view a slideshow of photos.
Another feature will give players an option to create avatars. This is similar to the Mii avatars used for the Wii console. Players would be able to customize from changing body shape, facial features, hair and clothes, as being able to download more clothing from the Xbox Live Marketplace. Another feature is the ability to install an entire game disc onto the Xbox 360's hard drive, which will decrease loading times. The disc for the installed game must still be present in the drive for verification.
During the Press Conference at E3, Microsoft announced Xbox Live Primetime, a series of scheduled programs where Xbox Live members can play against each other. The first announced game is an adaptation of the Endemol game show 1 vs. 100 in which one Xbox Live member will play against 100 other members with a live host and prizes awarded.
The Xbox Guide has also been redesigned. Players will not only be able to view their friends and messages, but will be able to access their game library. If a user has installed any game onto their Xbox 360 Hard drive, they will be able to immediately start the game from the guide, whether they are in a game or in the dashboard. Major Nelson also announced that the update will also support 16X10 on VGA or HDMI, expanding resolutions.
|Country||1 Month||3 Months||12 Months|
|Canada||C$ 8.99||C$ 29.99||C$ 59.99|
|Denmark||DKK 59||DKK 159||DKK 499|
|Mexico||MXN 89.00||MX$ 249.00||MX$ 599.00|
|Singapore||S$ 13.90||S$ 34.90||S$ 79.90|
|Sweden||SEK 69||SEK 199||SEK 599|
|Europe||€ 6.99||€ 19.99||€ 59.99|
|Australia||AU$ 10.95||AU$ 29.95||AU$ 79.95|
|New Zealand||NZ$ 10.95||NZ$ 29.95||NZ$ 79.95|
If users associate a credit card with their Xbox Live account, when the current subscription ends, it is renewed automatically. When this occurs, a notification e-mail is sent to the e-mail address registered for the account. In order to cancel this automatic renewal, users are required to phone a customer service number as cancellations cannot be made directly from the console. This procedure has been criticized by some users, particularly with respects to requests made by customer service operators concerning the reasons for cancellation.
"Xbox Ambassadors" are Xbox LIVE members who have been selected by Microsoft who have proven themselves to be helpful towards others and are willing to assist new Xbox LIVE users and answer any questions new Xbox LIVE users may have. Presently, there are ambassadors representing 18 different countries representing more than 30 different languages.
Xbox Rewards was a promotion designed to provide gamers incentives to play on Xbox Live by subsidizing achievement points earned with actual rewards. Gamers were required to register for specific challenges which, if successfully completed, would yield a challenge-specific reward.
Recently, individuals have bypassed these firmware security checks using custom firmware (e.g., the iXtreme firmware) which prevents detection of alterations, effectively "stealthing" the modification. It is possible, however, that this is still detectable, and hence leaves open the possibility of future bans.
It has been discovered that pretexting has been used to impersonate an Xbox Live user for the purposes of malfeasance. Microsoft has implemented greater security in an effort to decrease the service's susceptibility to social engineering.
Live Anywhere is an initiative by Microsoft to bring the Live online gaming and entertainment network to a wide variety of platforms and devices, including Xbox, Xbox 360, Windows PC's (XP & Vista), Windows Mobile and Java-based phones, Zune, and more. The concept service for mobile devices has been demonstrated at E3 and the Consumer Electronics Show on a Motorola Q mobile phone.
Microsoft's Chris Early clarified that Live Anywhere is a long-term project expected to be rolled out over several years.