Achievement unlocked: Xbox Live is the leading gaming console network in the world. Take our quiz to see how Live-savvy you are.
Xbox Live went live a few months after Microsoft released its first Xbox game consoles. Xbox's integrated online gameplay has been a key part of its success as a game console.
Each Xbox Live user must select a unique Gamertag. Your Gamertag also identifies you to other Xbox Live users when playing games or just keeping in touch. If you need to change your Gamertag, you can do so at any time for 800 Microsoft Points.
Silver membership, recently renamed as Free membership, costs nothing (truth in advertising). All you have to do is sign up and set a Gamertag for your Xbox Live user, and you're ready to go.
Though there were a lot of discounts on Xbox consoles and Xbox Live memberships in 2011, the PlayStation Network outage that started in April and lasted for several weeks caused many gamers to dust off their Xbox 360 consoles. During the outage, Microsoft offered free Gold membership content for a week to encourage Free-level Xbox Live subscribers to upgrade to Gold.
EA was concerned about allowing its games to be played on Microsoft's servers. Today, you can play several EA games on Xbox Live, though some require an additional sign in to a separate account on EA.com.
Microsoft stated that the pirating and modifications were a violation of the Xbox Live user agreement. The Internet-connected Xbox 360 provides constant feedback about the console to Microsoft, and the company was able to identify Gamertags using modified consoles and ban those users from Xbox Live entirely.
You can purchase Microsoft Points at Xbox.com or from a local retailer that sells Xbox redeemable code cards. Though you'll sometimes find them on sale, 400 MPs typically cost you about $4.99, and larger increments cost less per point.
Though a 12-month subscription to Xbox Live Gold was once around $50, the cost went up to $60 when Xbox Live began providing some newer features such as streaming video. Gamers can still find subscriptions on sale sometimes, either on their console dashboard or from game retailers.
To use Xbox Live, an Xbox 360 must use either a wired (Ethernet) or wireless (Wi-Fi) connection to the Internet. Though newer Xbox 360 models include a Wi-Fi adapter, older models require you to add a Wi-Fi adapter.
Xbox development and the Xbox Live network control center are located at Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, Washington.
Independent developers creating content for the Xbox must submit the application or game using Microsoft's App Hub. Then, Microsoft's developers will review the content and certify it for Xbox 360.
If you have an Xbox Live Gold membership, you can access both Facebook and Twitter from your Xbox 360 console. You might have to spend 400 Microsoft Points to activate the software, though.
On your Xbox 360, you can add multiple Gamertags. To do this, look under the "Home" tab in your Xbox 360 settings and select "Recover Gamertag." You'll also have this option when you set up a new Xbox 360.
Using ESPN for Xbox Live, you can sign in with your friends and watch the big game while your avatars help cheer on your favorite team. You'll need to use an Internet service provider authorized to access ESPN3 content in order to access the live games, but news and highlights are available even if you don't have that access.
Last.fm is a well-established streaming radio service that customizes content to your listening preferences.
A strong friends list is a good defense, but be sure to provide player feedback to help other Xbox Live users to avoid griefers, too.
In 2011, Hulu Plus joined Netflix as one of the ways Xbox Live users can enjoy streaming movies and TV shows from the Xbox 360 console. Some Hulu Plus content was restricted with a "Web-only" label, though, indicating it can only be viewed from a supported Web browser on your computer.
Look for "Indie Games" in the Xbox Live Marketplace to browse user-generated content, including entire games or add-ons to existing games. These games were developed by hobbiests or aspiring professionals using the Xbox Developer Kit.
Though PSN has been a major reason for the success of the Playstation 3, the console is still neck-and-neck with the Xbox 360 for popularity and market share. Also, as of this writing, the Xbox Live network is much larger than the PSN, and the PSN outage may keep Xbox Live in the lead for a while to come.
Microsoft Research developed TrueSkill, which uses information you provided about yourself and your gaming style to match you with other Xbox Live gamers during a pick-up game online.