How Xbox Live Works

Xbox Live Basics

The Halo series, launched in 2001, has been one of the most successful game franchises to use Xbox Live's online gameplay.
The Halo series, launched in 2001, has been one of the most successful game franchises to use Xbox Live's online gameplay.

Xbox owners connect to the Xbox Live network via a broadband connection (such as a cable modem). Xbox Live was available for all Xbox models until April 2010, but now it can only be accessed using Xbox 360 consoles. Microsoft's servers allow players to compete against each other or cooperate as a team. The network also adds a social aspect to the online gaming experience, allowing personal messaging, voice chat, online scoreboards and ranking systems.

Besides interacting with your friends, you can also interact with the Xbox Live Marketplace. From the Marketplace, you can purchase and download new content, including the following:

  • New games, including puzzle games like "Bejeweled" or classic arcade games like "Gauntlet"
  • Extended levels or new characters for games you already have
  • Dashboard themes for the Xbox, displayed when you're signed in to Xbox Live
  • Virtual clothing and accessories for your Xbox avatar

The marketplace is broken up into three components on your dashboard: Music Marketplace, Video Marketplace and Game Marketplace. Access to these areas is based on your level of membership. We'll delve into the details of Xbox Live's subscription options later. Though Microsoft has made some marketplace content available for free, many items must be purchased by redeeming Microsoft Points. You have two options for purchasing Microsoft Points: Register a credit card with your Xbox Live account, or purchase a card from your local game retailer with a code that you can redeem online. Xbox Live Marketplace content usually costs 80 to 800 Microsoft Points per item.

Xbox games come in two flavors: Live Enabled and Live Aware. A Live Enabled game uses all the interactive features of Xbox Live. You can play against other people, participate in tournaments and have your scores publicly ranked. A Live Aware game doesn't allow interactive play, but it does keep you logged in to the Xbox Live network and uses some of its features. Game developers must determine which features they want to use, such as displaying notifications for you during the game when you receive chat messages from friends, or posting high scores for the game so your friends can see how you're doing.

We've covered downloads to gameplay with Xbox Live, but before you get started, review the information on the next page to decide what membership tier works best for you.