What is Xbox Live?
Xbox Live is the Xbox 360's online service, which gives you access to a wide range of online features. Along with letting you see what games your friends are playing, message them, use voice chat, and play online, Xbox Live also allows you to access the Xbox Live Marketplace, where you can purchase, and download entire games, or add-ons to make your other games last longer. You can also download demos for upcoming games, stream high-definition films, and even watch Xbox's regular Inside Xbox channel, which brings you videos of upcoming games, and features several regular shows. Like everything in life, though, Xbox Live isn't all free - although the vast majority of it is. Split into Xbox Live Free, Xbox Live Gold, and now, the Xbox Live Family Pack, there are three types of Xbox Live membership on offer - find out what the differences between the choices, and what you get with each below.
The Different Subscriptions: Xbox Live FreeXbox Live Free – or Silver as it used to be known - is your standard subscription to Xbox Live. In order to get this, all you have to do is own an Xbox 360, connect it to the internet, and sign up for Xbox Live - there are no charges, hidden or upfront, that come with having a free account. With an Xbox Live Free account, you get access to pretty much everything Xbox Live has to offer - all entirely free of charge. You can:
- Download demos and trials of new and upcoming games
- Download online-exclusive Xbox Live Arcade games, digital copies of full games from the Games on Demand store, or take your games further with add-ons from the Xbox Live Marketplace
- Rent and stream high definition films from the Zune Video Marketplace
- Voice and text chat with your friends, as well as MSN conversations
The Different Subscriptions: Xbox Live GoldFor an annual price of about £40 (or less if you shop around), you can get access to all the stuff in the Xbox Live Free subscription and a whole lot more:
- Get weekly discounts on selected items off the Xbox Live Marketplace with Microsoft's Deal of the Week – these could be games, add-ons, films, avatar clothes or whatever
- Play games online, either with friends or against random people from around the world
- Access to Facebook and Twitter from your Xbox dashboard
- The ability to form 'parties' with your friends, letting you all chat together, even if you're all playing different games – which also make it easier to jump into games together
- Video chat, using Video Kinect (Kinect Sensor required)
- Watching the Sky Player (features Sky Sports, Sky Movies and more) – requires a Sky subscription
- Unlimited streaming of music from the Zune Music Marketplace – requires a Zune Pass subscription
The Different Subscriptions: Xbox Live Gold Family Pack
For £69.99 per year, the Xbox Live Gold Family Pack gets you all the benefits of Gold membership, four times over, letting you have four separate Xbox Live Gold subscriptions in the one pack, with all the usual benefits – plus some special family-orientated features:
- Comes with four simultaneous Xbox Live Gold subscriptions
- A special 'Family Centre' where you can manage the memberships and monitor your family members' activities on Xbox Live
- Grant people Microsoft Points 'allowances', giving them a certain amount of 'money' to spend on stuff they want off the Xbox Live Marketplace
- Special monthly discounts on a particular games Microsoft deems as 'family friendly'
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