Xbox Live has been available in Europe for nearly two months now, and if you've not already signed up for the service but thinking about it, then you're probably wondering what is on offer, and how easy it is to get connected.

Xbox Live UK Packshot and Headset

Well the good news is that from our experience, it's very easy to get connected - probably the hardest thing is finding somewhere that has stock of the Xbox Live Starter Kit (most places we checked had sold out, but were expecting more stock within a week or so), and also the slight stumbling block of that to use Xbox Live you need a valid credit card, despite the fact you've already paid for the kit.

How can I get Xbox Live, and what do I need?
To get connected to Xbox Live you need a Starter Kit - included are the Xbox Communicator headset, a CD containing the software to update your Xbox with the Live menu on the dashboard, and three demo games.

Also in the kit you get your subscription code, offering 12 months of free gaming via the Xbox Live service. There's also a selection of user manuals, giving you information about how to use the service, how to assemble the headset, and details of the best methods to use when connecting either directly or via a router based connection.

Xbox Live dashboard

How do I activate my account, and pick my Gamertag?
After you've switched on your Xbox and inserted the Xbox Live disc, you'll see a few screens which update the console to have the Xbox Live code, and an introduction video giving you the lowdown on what Xbox Live is, and the core functions that you'll get to use - gamertag, voice communication, friends list, etc...

It's then simply a matter of entering all of your details in to the boxes, including your name, address, phone number, email address, and credit card details...

Xbox Live dashboard

So I need a credit card? But I've already paid haven't I?
Yes, you have already paid for the Starter Kit, and yes it comes with 12 months of free subscription to the Xbox Live games network - Microsoft say they need a credit card number to link to the account for security reasons and also so you can get your account restored if you forget the passcode.

If that's the full reason, or more likely so they've got your payment details well ahead of your account expiring in 12 months time, when you'll probably forget all about renewing the service, and simply have it taken from your account automatically.

I've not got a credit card... can I use my Switch Debit card?
You may be wondering why Xbox Live will let you sign up with Visa, Mastercard or American Express, but not the widely used Switch debit card, which is being re-branded as Maestro, which itself is run by Mastercard, and is a Mastercard logo, which is what Microsoft say your card needs to have to be accepted by Xbox Live.

It's made more confusing by the fact that some debit cards are said to be accepted, including Visa's Delta card, and a number of gamers emailed us here at GamesPaper during the first few weeks of the UK Xbox Live release asking us if we knew what the situation was.

We were also a bit puzzled, and upon phoning the Xbox Live support we were told that they were unsure if Switch was accepted or not, but after asking a colleague at the call centre they felt that it was "not supported, because it's [Xbox Live] only just launched a few weeks ago". The support representative did however ensure us that Switch was being looked at as it's a very major debit card.

Xbox Live dashboard

So feeling still all a little unsure as to what the situation was with debit card payment, and so asked Microsoft directly, and they told us that they "can confirm that a credit card (not a debit card) is required for Xbox Live" but that the good news for non-credit card holding gamers was that they are indeed "working on alternatives to credit card payment".

Of course, until alternatives are put in to place this will prove annoying to gamers who have a Switch Debit card and want to sign up for the service, and either don't have a credit card or don't want to use their credit card - the solution to this, say Microsoft, is to get a parent to use their card - however only one Xbox Live account can be set up per credit card, meaning you'll need quite a few credit cards to set up the maximum 8 accounts on a single Xbox.

Microsoft tell us that gamers wishing to sign up for Xbox Live but only have access to a debit card should keep an eye on the website for updates to the situation - we'll obviously also cover news of any new Xbox Live news here on GamesPaper.

Xbox Live dashboard

OK so I've got my Starter Kit and entered my card details, now what?
That's about all really - you're now connected to Xbox Live. Try out one of the demo games that comes with the starter kit - there's three in the UK, Moto GP Online, MechAssault and Whacked - we'd recommend giving Moto GP a try, and the general concencous of other Xbox Live gamers is that it's one of the more popular online games currently.

If you're having trouble getting connected then we suggest you check out the manuals that come with your Starter Kit for the basics, and also the Xbox Live support pages. If you still can't get it to work then contact your Internet Service provider who should be able to give you a few tips as to what to do.

Happy Xbox Live gaming - we'll see you there!

Related article: The Broadband Gaming section on GamesPaper