Newest Review: ... is around £15, and that wastes a great deal of cash in the long run - if you're not sure about whether you want to join, many Xbox game... more
Connect, communicate, chat, co-operate and KILL KILL KILL!!!
Xbox Live 12 Month Subscription Plan
Member Name: DonPaolo
Xbox Live 12 Month Subscription Plan
Advantages: Free chat, vast range of media, play online, reasonable price, great fun
Disadvantages: Silver account is pointless, you may want to purchase the mini keyboard for chatting
Xbox Live is a service provided by Microsoft, which allows Xbox users to connect their consoles to the internet and join a worldwide network of fellow gamers to play, share and communicate together. The service allows you to play games with or against fellow gamers from all corners of the world. From the comfort of your own home, you can chat to friends who are sitting in the comfort of theirs, whether they live round the corner or on another continent.
@@@ Online Console Gaming @@@
The phenomenon of online console gaming has exploded over the past 5 years. Previously, online gaming was reserved for PC users, and the only way you could play multiplayer games on a console was to have friends round to your house, or cart your console and games around to other people's homes.
With the massively increased uptake of broadband internet connections in recent years, online gaming is a realistic option for most console owners, and has become integral to their playing habits. After tentative initial steps, Xbox Live has grown to become one of the major facets of what Xbox gaming has to offer.
@@@ Membership @@@
If you have an Xbox 360 console and an internet connection (preferably broadband) Xbox Live is accessible to you. When you turn on your Xbox and create your personal profile, you can sign up for a free 'Silver' account and get access to some of the basic features; you can find, add, and communicate with friends, download additional content for your games, and so on.
'Gold' membership, on the other hand is a paid service, and opens up a world of options. In many ways, a Gold account can be likened to a golden ticket to Willy Wonka's factory - a magical world where all your chocolatey dreams come true! A Silver account on the other hand is just a license to stand at the locked gates, straining to see what's going on inside, knowing your friends are having an amazing time, but all you can do is stand their salivating....
So Silver is relatively pointless, and if you want to be able to play games online, join parties with friends, and engage in other assorted funs, the Gold account is the way to go. The 12 month subscription plan is in my view the best way of accessing Xbox Live Gold. It is the longest term you can purchase, and at around £40 (the price of a game) it results in the most cost-effective membership. A 3-month membership is around £15, and that wastes a great deal of cash in the long run - if you're not sure about whether you want to join, many Xbox games come with a voucher code for a free 48-hour Gold trial - why not suck it and see!?
@@@ Interface @@@
The appearance and interface of Xbox Live changes regularly, and I'm not a massive fan of the way the latest iteration looks - maybe I just don't like change. Having said that, the system has always been uncluttered, intuitive and very easy to navigate, which makes using it very fun and simple. Even when you're in the middle of playing a game, you can use the central button on your game controller to bring up a mini menu, and access all of the major services, including chatting with friends or sending messages.
@@@ Gaming Online @@@
Playing games online is the primary reason for having an Xbox Live account. Personally, it gives me the opportunity to shoot and kill friends (and strangers) without the fear of devastating legal implications. In fact, some would argue that the main draw of games like Call of Duty and the Halo series is their online multiplayer component - they would be nowhere near their current popularity levels if you couldn't team up and take on opponents from across the world.
The quality of the actual gaming experience is down to the game's developers and thus can vary massively; each individual game has a tailored online offering, and in this sense, Xbox Live just provides a platform for the game developers to create the online experience they want to. My personal online favourites include the Halo series, (where I can play through story missions with a couple of friends on co-operative mode, or join in to multiplayer battles with up to 15 other random players from round the world), and FIFA (where you can take on a friend or be set up against a stranger in a 1-on-1 football match or even an online league system).
@@@ Communication @@@
Although my main motivation for purchasing Xbox Live was to play online and get more out of my games, I have now come to almost depend upon it for a different reason - communication. About 2 years ago I moved away from home, and away from my childhood friends; Xbox Live allows me to keep in touch with them, to have regular contact and enjoy the same shared hobby, even though I am hundreds of miles away. It also allows me to connect with friends from university who live all over the country, and even with friends who have moved abroad.
It's important to mention at this point that the Xbox headset and microphone are an absolute must for me. They allow you to have a 1 on 1 conversation, or to join a 'party' and effectively enter a free and unlimited conference call with several people at once. I can quite happily sit and play for hours with friends while we chat together. You can also compete with friends, and compare your progress in various games.
Along with social media, which fosters this kind of communication, Xbox Live is a great tool for me to stay connected with people. A small bugbear I have on this front is the Xbox controller. Whereas a headset and microphone is included in most Xbox bundles, you can get a small 'QWERTY' keyboard which attaches to the controller as an additional purchase. Without that, you have to type any messages on an on-screen keyboard, using the joystick to move a cursor round the characters. Typing like this is very laborious and frustrating, but I'm yet to be compelled to shell out the extra money for a tiny little keyboard.
@@@ Social Media @@@
Speaking of which... Xbox Live comes complete with MSN Messenger, and is now integrated with Facebook and Twitter as downloadable free 'Apps'. The Xbox dashboard acts as a hub for you to manage your accounts on these sites and speak to people who aren't necessarily on Xbox live. This is a brilliant edition which expands the offering massively.
@@@ Music & Video @@@
Being 'connected' is not just a social thing, and not everything on Xbox Live is communication and friend related. The service also gives you access to a strong (and growing) range of media options. There are free apps for Youtube (allowing you to search the site and watch videos just as you would on a web browser), Channel 4 OD (so you can catch up with TV shows you've missed, and watch various series from the vaults) and more.
You can access Netflix, streaming online movies and TV shows, Zune for streaming music, and if you have a Sky account, you can watch Sky TV through your Xbox! It really does give you access to a steadily growing world of entertainment avenues at your fingertips.
Needless to say, you can also purchase Microsoft products on Xbox Live, including games, expansion packs for games, and so on, as well as watching trailers for upcoming games. Thankfully, there is no intrusive advertising on the platform, which was a very real danger. It is very easy to sign in and get straight into a game or a conversation with your friends without being exposed to loads of aggressive marketing. Needless to say, when you use an app, or watch a movie, you are then fair game, and will have to sit through the odd trailer or promo, but it's totally understandable.
@@@ Security and Families @@@
Parental controls are an essential consideration for Xbox Live. Gaming is a hobby for all ages, and the number of young people getting involved in online games in increasing, which is great. However I feel great care should be taken as to what content they are exposed to. I do find there is an element of hypocrisy involved here - I have often encountered young gamers playing games online which are clearly unsuitable for their age group, whilst parents will start to point fingers if their child is exposed to unsuitable content. If you are going to buy your 12 year old son a game with an 18 certificate and access to an online gaming community, you don't really have a leg to stand on if he is exposed to bad language, graphic violence, or anything else unsavoury. Parents - exercise some control, just as you would over X-rated movies.
Nevertheless, it is important for parents to have the option to protect their children, and Microsoft have included good parental control options, as well as a blocking option to stop you from encountering people you don't want to, and a reporting system if people are behaving unsuitably. This system is very easy to use and effective in rooting out troublemakers.
@@@ Overall Thoughts @@@
The Xbox Live Gold 12 month plan gives 1 year of access to a brilliant array of online gaming, media and communication, for a very reasonable price of around £40. For the price of one typical game, you can unleash new possibilities in almost all of your Xbox titles, chat for free with friends, and take on players from all over the world. The interface is neat and easy to use, and the process is slick. As long as you have a decent internet connection and obviously an Xbox, there is a very entertaining set of possibilities at your fingertips. My annual renewal of my membership is one of the easiest purchasing decisions I've ever had to make, allowing me another year of fun and games with good friends.
Thanks for reading! I'm also on Ciao :)
Summary: Renewing is the easiest purchasing decision I have ever made!
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