10 ways Xbox Live changed gaming forever

Celebrating 11 years of Microsoft's online service

How Xbox Live changed gaming
Horse Armour was paid-for DLC that looked pretty and gave your horse more health. (Image from www.uesp.net)

7. Pay to play

Not only did Microsoft manage to get Xbox owners to pay for a yearly Xbox Live subscription, but it also introduced its own currency - Microsoft Points. While the latter has since been jettisoned in favour of real-world cash, Microsoft's triumph is getting console owners to pay for play. While Sony proclaimed that its competing PlayStation Network would be free to use, the introduction of the premium PlayStation Plus subscription acknowledged that Xbox Live had set another standard for online services.

8. Community

Prior to the launch of Xbox Live, gaming was mostly a solitary experience and multiplayer could be defined as two or more players huddling together around a TV playing the same game in a split-screen mode. Thanks to the Xbox headset, online matchmaking and voice chat, you could play your favourite games with a wider community of gamers. There's a dark side to online play - insults, racism and sexism amongst some gamers who hide behind the relative anonymity of their Gamertags. But love or loathe the multiplayer experience, it has given us some memorable shared experiences - facing the Flood in Halo, battling zombies in Left 4 Dead and bringing down General Raam on the train at the end of Gears of War.

Ten ways Xbox Live changed gaming
Your local multiplayer number appeared on the controller

9. It's changed our expectations

Not only has Xbox Live introduced more gamers to the multiplayer experience, it's popularised co-operative play, squad-based tactics, clans, clubs and private games. Where multiplayer used to simply be a bolt-on to the single-player story, it now carries equal weight. In some cases more. The longevity of the Halo and Battlefield series is down to their intense multiplayer action. GTA V's online component gives Rockstar's game a wilder and more anarchic edge (if that's possible), while football games like FIFA 14 offer realistic 11 vs 11 gaming options. Microsoft's insistence that all Xbox 360 games have some sort of Xbox Live component has helped drive the online revolution. But it's also a reflection on how tastes are changing and how MMOs with single-player components (like Bungie's Destiny) may point towards the future of gaming.

10. Cloud computing

Speaking of the 'future of gaming', Xbox Live is set to add cloud computing to its list of technological achievements. Microsoft has built 300,000 servers to provide its new model army of Xbox Ones with extra CPU and GPU processing power over the internet, enabling developers to offload some tasks or to exceed the computational power of the hardware. It's early days, but Forza Motorsport 5 claims to be able to analyse your driving style and evolve AI opponents to match; Titanfall processes some of its AI in the cloud; while Watch Dogs reportedly number-crunches some of its physics online. This cloud-assisted gaming approach offers the tantalising prospect of games evolving post-launch, not just in terms of content, but performance.

  • You can read about more Xbox history here.