What Is Xbox Live?

The subscription service offers more than just games

The Xbox Live logo

Microsoft

Xbox Live is Microsoft's online service for gaming and content distribution for the Xbox, Xbox 360, and Xbox One video game systems.

It lets you play games against other people online as well as download demos, trailers, and even full games in the Xbox Live Arcade. You get to choose a nickname (called a Gamertag) which is how you're known to other people in any games you play. You can keep friends lists to stay in touch with real-life friends or new people you meet online you like to play with.

Xbox Live is a subscription-based service that can be purchased for one month, three-month, and one-year periods. You can either buy subscription cards at retail stores or you can use your credit card on the console itself to sign up. You need an Xbox 360 or Xbox One, as well as a broadband internet service provider, to use it.

Xbox Live on the original Xbox console is no longer available.

There are two levels of service. The free level lets you download things from the Xbox Live Marketplace; chat with friends; use apps such as Netflix, WWE Network, ESPN, and many others; and share your gamer profile with other users. You can't play games online, though. ​The Xbox Live Gold Level is a paid service and gives you all of the Silver level benefits along with the ability to play games online.

Xbox Live Subscription and Gift Cards

Buying things on Xbox One (and Xbox 360 now) is done in good ol' local currency, so no more trying to figure out how much 800 Microsoft Points really costs. If you see a game priced at $10, it costs $10, which is much simpler. This means that instead of buying Microsoft Points at retailers, you can now buy Microsoft Gift Cards in various amounts. You can also buy Xbox Live Gold subscription cards at retailers.

PayPal

We highly recommend you use the gift and subscription cards noted above instead of putting your credit card info on your Xbox Live account. Basically, if you don't put your credit card info on your account, there's nothing for hackers to potentially steal. Microsoft has greatly upped the security on Xbox Live accounts over the last few years, so getting hacked isn't as common as it used to be (it was never exactly common, though, just to be clear), but it's better to be safe.

You do still have to put some form of payment option into your account, however, and we recommend using PayPal. It offers an extra couple of layers of safety and security on top of what Microsoft already does to keep your information secure.