Xbox Live celebrates ‘5ive’

by W. Andrew Powell

Thursday, November 15, marks Xbox Live’s fifth year of online gaming, and as a little celebration Microsoft is reaching out to its 8 million members and offering a bit of a thank you.

Dubbed the “Xbox Live is 5ive” event, all Xbox Live members can download the Arcade title Carcassonne for free (in Korea gamers will get Hexic 2). The free download becomes available for two days starting at 12:01 AM (PST) Thursday, and going until 11:59 (PST) on Friday, November 16,

For members who joined Xbox Live in 2002, there’s an added bonus as well: 500 free Microsoft Points.

The most interesting announcement though was that starting on Tuesday, December 4, Xbox Live will be getting a bunch of new features and enhancements, including launching Xbox Originals for download. Some of the games that were announced include Halo, Psychonauts, Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge and Fable, “among others”. For 1,200 Microsoft Points a game, you can download titles that Xbox is claiming is “only the beginning”, promising much more in the next year.

“In just five short years, Xbox Live has revolutionized the way friends and family have fun in the living room,” said John Schappert, corporate vice president of Live, software and services at Microsoft. “On its fifth birthday, Xbox Live truly is the place for hanging out with friends and enjoying downloadable TV shows, movies, videos, game add-ons and now downloadable Xbox games on demand.”

For Canadians, Xbox Live doesn’t quite live up to the razzle-dazzle that Schappert mentions. While some video and TV content is available, there is very little content available through the Xbox Live service, aside from games. Due to separate distribution deals for TV shows and movies in Canada, most of the content that appears on the U.S. Xbox Live can’t appear in Canada without a separate deal. A good example would be the Fox show Family Guy, which you can download on the U.S. Xbox Live service thanks to a deal with Fox, but doesn’t appear in Canada – likely because CanWest Global has television distribution rights for this country.

Still, this points to bigger and better things for the Xbox Live service as other consoles, like Nintendo’s Wii and Sony’s PlayStation 3, start offering more and more in the way of online services. At this point it’s still impossible for anything on the Wii or PS3 to rival what can be found on Xbox Live. The Xbox 360 may not be the top-selling console, but for many hardcore gamers it’s hard to beat the sheer number of gamers, the graphics, and the ever-expanding Live service.

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