Microsoft introduced Xbox Live at the tail-end of the original Xbox's shelf life, but it was on the Xbox 360 that it became the fleshed out, full featured online service that we know today. Now that more and more console features are internet dependent, a strong web connection, as well as buying into the console's online service, is a basic requirement.
For the majority of the last console generation, Xbox Live was the reigning king of online gaming networks. Offering dedicated multiplayer servers and a new game every month, Xbox Live may not have been free like PSN, but PlayStation owners got what they paid for.
Xbox Live on Xbox One is a precarious proposition. It still offers everything that made it so great in the past but, now that the system is more internet-dependant than ever, there's even more that's walled off until you pay up. This means you won't be able to use new services like Game DVR to upload videos or utilize cloud saving until you upgrade to Gold. Worse, you won't even be able to participate in party chat until you've given you've paid your yearly pittance to Microsoft. And if you're not already a member, Microsoft won't let you forget about what you're missing. You'll find advertisements plastered all over your dashboard that have the same message: Get Gold and you'll have a better time.
The good, probably expected, news is that your account from the Xbox 360 will carry over to the Xbox One and, better, if you still have your Xbox 360, your account will have Gold no matter which system you're using. You'll also be entitled to four potential games per month, two on Xbox 360 and two on Xbox One. Xbox Live's most basic services should look familiar to what you knew on the 360. You can message friends, join groups for voice chat or send typed-up messages. However, Microsoft no longer lets you record and send audio messages.
Downloading a digitally purchased game from Xbox Live is just as swift as on Sony's servers and, starting in August, can even be done remotely via Xbox.com or SmartGlass. Back at home, games can be played in mid-download, letting you dive into titles before the massive files finishes arriving.
The only real problem we see is that updates are continuously rolling onto the system. It seems like every time we go to turn it on, it needs another 70-plus MB update in order to watch a simple YouTube video. Of course the point could be made that we can always leave the system in standby mode to circumvent all the updates, but honestly, a system shouldn't need an update every two days.
When you finally do decide to join up with Gold, it feels like a luxury service. Free games every month, plus dedicated servers that ensure smooth online gameplay. It may not give you exclusive access to upcoming demos like PlayStation Plus once did - for that you'll want to look at EA Access - but Xbox Live Gold generally still feels like a good value.