First things first, October the 30th will mark the launch of Xbox Live across a further six countries in Europe, bringing the total to an astounding fourteen - it was revealed at Microsoft's address yesterday. Austria, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Norway, and Switzerland are the lucky new hosts to the service. European pricing was also finally confirmed, too, which will commence for those on a twelve-month trial next March, and the rest of us this December. The annual rate will be £39.99/€59.99, or gamers have the option of just paying monthly - for £4.99/€6.99. All matters subscription related will be managed through the Xbox dashboard.
Keen to push the number of peopled hooked-up to the service, Microsoft revealed that a multitude of Live enabled titles will now carry a two month free trial voucher, and the Communicator headset is now available for purchase as a standalone product for £19.99/€29.99.
Finally, encouraging us all to "play together" more, the following new features are being pushed:
Live Alerts: Get a game invite on your PDA, cell phone, or PC with instant messengers - something exclusive to Xbox Live.
Live Web - Live stats and friends lists will be available to view through a new Xbox site that links to the service.
Live Aware Games – More games will let you be "logged on" while playing, even if playing single player so you can receive invites, and keep up with what your friends are playing.
Live Now – This is the place where gamers meet and use voice chat to begin their gaming experience. Decide which game to play, how to team up, and wrap up after the game. In addition, there will be expanded real-time information about who is online, your rankings, messages from other gamers and events in the Live community.
Teams and Competitions – XSN Sports games let you compete in the first truly virtual sports league for your Xbox. Now you can easily set up a league on XSNsports.com, take out your rival over Xbox Live, and track up-to-date stats on your PC throughout the season. All XSN Sports games bring the power of the Xbox and PC together for the first time through XSNsports.com, so you are always plugged into the competition. XSN Sports games available this autumn include Amped 2 and NFL Fever 2004.