Microsoft introduced Xbox Live at the tail end of the original Xbox, 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 basically a requirement.
Paying for an Xbox Live Gold account has always been necessary to take your Xbox games online. That was a major edge for the PS3, which gave away this functionality, but now Sony has taken the same approach and put the PS4's multiplayer behind a paywall.
For years, the Xbox One's Achilles' Heel was requiring users to buy Xbox Live Gold to use streaming services like Amazon Instant Video and Netflix, though thanks to a recent update this is no longer an issue. But now that the Xbox One has more online features, there's even more that's walled off until you pay up. Uploading from Game DVR and cloud saves are not available without Gold.
Your account from the Xbox 360 will carry over to the Xbox One and for better or worse, Xbox Live is still basically the same service we knew from the 360. You can message friends, join groups for voice chat and jump right into a game. While you can still type up messages, Microsoft no longer lets you record and send audio messages.
At least you're paying for quality servers. Right out of the gate, connections to Live have been stable, not buckling under the pressure of the day one launch crowd. We were able to play online co-op in Dead Rising 3 as well as fight online in Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty: Ghosts without a snag. Mic chat through the included headset was sharp, even clearer than on the Xbox 360.
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.
With Game DVR the Xbox One has introduced big element to Xbox Live, but hasn't given it its proper due. Your friend feed is rather buried, hidden a couple menus deep in the system's interface. It makes uploading the file to SkyDrive and sharing it on YouTube a much more attractive option. While we appreciate that notifications and shared content it cluttering up our home screen, Microsoft should really consider finding a new place for this content to live.
The Xbox One has also been doling out some ridiculously big patches. Dead Rising received a 13GB update, and Battlefield 4 got a reputation for erratic downloads and online performance. Patches of only a few hundred MBs can take over thirty minutes to download and install, and in this age of high-speed Internet that's almost unacceptable.
Announced in late July, EA has plans for a publisher-specific download platform that will give gamers access to a vault of valuable titles. The service will be called EA Access, and will only cost $4.99 (£3.99) to land access to FIFA 14, Madden NFL 25, Peggle 2 and Battlefield 4, with more titles to be added soon.
At this point, this is an Xbox-exclusive service as Sony passed on it - instead focusing their attention on PlayStation Now. For an extra $5 a month, sport-oriented gamers will get some of the most popular games in EA's arsenal, making it a real win-win for the gaming public. With EA siding with Microsoft, will they be able to beat out Sony's PlayStation Now? Well, that's a question only time can tell.