Xbox Live, an online multiplayer gaming and digital media delivery service is the only online gaming service on consoles on which users have to pay charges to play multiplayer gaming. It is created and operated by Microsoft Corporation. Xbox Live provides two kind of services to its users , one is called Xbox Live Free, which as the name suggests is a free service and other is called Xbox Live Gold which is a subscription – based service and have several features such as online gaming. However before October 2010, Xbox Live Free used to be known as Xbox Live Silver.
Xbox Live was introduced for the first time in 2002 when it was made available to the Xbox system. Later in 2005, when Xbox 360 console was launched, the updated version of the service was also made available on it. The year 2007 saw most of the aspects of the service being available on Windows computers with the launch of Games of Windows- Live. As part of its Live Anywhere initiative, Microsoft is planning to extend Live to other platforms such as handhelds and mobile phones. Windows Phone 7, a new Windows Phones with Microsoft’s new mobile operating system have complete Xbox Live functionality integrated in it. Thus Xbox Live works on Xbox 360, Windows platforms and Windows Phone 7 and providing its members access to multiplayer gaming and other connected services like Facebook, Netflix and others.
Currently Xbox Live has 25 million members. Recently, at the credit Suisse Annual Technology Conference, Microsoft head of Interactive Entertainment Business ‘Dennis Durkin’ announced that out of total 25 million members of Xbox Live, 12.5 million are hosted by Xbox Live Gold only, a paid subscription version of the Live service. Maintaining 50% paid subscribers is quite an achievement for Microsoft considering the secondary services that are available free on other platforms.
According to Durkin, on an average a U.S. Xbox Live Gold subscriber spends over 3 hours per day using the service and that 40% of their time is spent using non-gaming features like Facebook, Twitter, and Netflix instant streaming movies. What is more surprising about these usage numbers is that all of these services don’t require access subscription fees on other platforms. Users on competing game consoles like the Sony Playstation 3 and the Nintendo Wii do not have to pay extra for access to Netflix access beyond their NFLX bill.
With variety of options available of free online gaming on a variety of platforms right from smartphones to tablet PCs many might be apprehensive about whether Microsoft would be able to maintain its subscribers base especially of Xbox Live Gold in coming years. But Microsoft seemed quiet upbeat about its success, according to them as long as Xbox 360 remains a viable and profitable platform Xbox Live Gold will be a success. Infact, at the beginning of November last year Microsoft increased the subscription rate of Xbox Live Gold by $10 thus making a total subscription price of $60 per year. However, looking at the trend of how new users are coming and also with the new and popular add-on for the console the future of Xbox Live Gold seems quiet bright.