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Have you signed up for Xbox Live yet?

The last decade has seen some huge changes in the world of video games, not least of which has come from the emergence of online services which allow user to take on players from every corner of the globe from the comfort of their own home. Arguably the most popular of these services has been Xbox Live for Microsoft's Xbox 360 system.

The primary purpose of Xbox Live was to enable players to join up for online games either with or against each other without having to leave their home or set up complicated Local Area Networks. The simplicity of the system was the fact that you simply needed to plug an Ethernet cable or Microsoft Wireless Adapter into your Xbox 360 and you were ready to go - at least you were ready to go once you had paid your subscription fee.

The cost of Xbox Live has been the only real bone of contention regarding the system since its launch. While services like Sony's PlayStation Network offer gamers the ability to play online free of charge, Xbox Live requires users to pay a monthly, three monthly or annual subscription fee.

However this fee doesn't only open up the ability to play online, but it also enables users to download exclusive demos as well as check out all kinds of unique content from the Xbox Live Marketplace.

The last few years have seen a huge number of additions to this Marketplace, including favourites like online movie streaming website Netflix and the new Xbox Music - a service that features 15 million different songs for users to stream whenever they like from their consoles for a single subscription fee (in addition to your Xbox Live subscription).

The other main feature of Xbox Live is to enable users to download software updates for their console and games. In the days before we were connected to the web, games shipped with bugs stayed broken, and often unplayable in some places. But the ability to download fixes direct to your system has enabled developers to get around these issues - making for a much more enjoyable gameplay experience for everyone.

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