On November 15, 2007, Microsoft celebrated Xbox Live's 5th anniversary by offering its then over 8 million subscribers the title Carcassonne free of charge and awarding gamers who had subscribed to Live since its inception 500 free Microsoft Points.Due to intermittent service interruptions during late December 2007 and early January 2008, Microsoft promised to offer a free Xbox Live Arcade game to all Xbox Live users as compensation, in an open letter to all Xbox Live members from Mark Whitten, Xbox LIVE General Manager.The online features, while praised as innovative, were largely considered a failure, and the Dreamcast's immediate competitor, the Play Station 2, did not initially ship with built-in networking capabilities.Microsoft, however, hoped that the Xbox would succeed where the Dreamcast had failed.Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates both had a vision of making premium download content and add-ons that would attract many new customers.Based on this reasoning, the console included a standard Ethernet port (10/100) in order to provide connectivity to common broadband networks, but did not include a modem or any dial-up support, and its online service was designed to support broadband users only.It was changed later, wherein all Xbox Live titles included the universal gold Live bar.
The Xbox Live service is available as both a free service, known as Xbox Live Silver and a subscription-based service known as Xbox Live Gold, respectively, with most features such as online gaming restricted to the Gold service.
Sound-dampened booths and broadband-connected Xbox consoles—featuring an early version of Unreal Championship—demonstrated the service on the show floor.
The Epic title was one of the flagship titles for the service, which was slated for a debut on November 15, 2002, marking the anniversary of the Xbox launch.
Microsoft announced that 50 Xbox Live titles would be available by the end of 2003.
Utilizing the required broadband bandwidth, Xbox Live featured a unified gaming "Friends List", as well as a single identity across all titles (regardless of the publisher), and standardized voice chat with a headset and communication, a feature that was still in its infancy.
As Microsoft developed the original Xbox console, online gaming was designated as one of the key pillars for the greater Xbox strategy.