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The online multiplayer service officially launched on November 15, 2002, meaning Tuesday marked 20 years since its inception.
Xbox Live was first introduced on the original Xbox exactly one year after its launch.
This was the main reason the original Xbox included a broadband port, a decision that was derided by reviewers at the time due to relatively low broadband adoption at the time.
However, the decision to make Xbox Live a broadband service – rather than the dial-up service previously seen on the Sega Dreamcast – was an attempt not only to make online gaming more stable and less prone to lags, but also to allow for larger downloads.
This would allow players to more easily obtain DLC in their games, which was possible on Dreamcast but limited to small file sizes given its slow 56k modem.
The reliance on broadband and Xbox’s position as a newcomer to the market caused Xbox Live to get off to a rather slow start. The service would reach 1 million online users in July 2004, about a year and a half after its launch, but this figure would reach 2 million a year later.
The service grew rapidly in November 2005, when the Xbox 360 spear. This included built-in Xbox Live integration, with players able to sign up for a free Xbox Live Silver account (which provided access to the on-console store) or pay for an Xbox Live Gold account (which allowed online play).
By the time Xbox Live reached its 5th anniversary, it had reached over 8 million subscribers, and in an earnings call in January 2021, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella revealed that Xbox Live had reached over 100 million monthly active users.
These days, Xbox Live Gold is still available as a separate subscription or as part of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which combines Xbox Live Gold, Xbox Game Pass for Console, and computer, EA Cloud playback and streaming.