Microsoft have announced that the Xbox Live games network will launch across North America on November 15th, although there's been no news as to when the European version will go live.

The Xbox specific Broadband gaming network has been in testing around the world since early June, with a huge number of volunteers applying to take part in the beta scheme, and play some of the new titles which will be on offer when the service officially launches.

Some 5,000 retailers across America are expected to stock the Xbox Live Starter Kit at launch, which currently has a suggested pricetag of $49.95 (meaning a 40 UK price seems likely), and comes with one years subscription to the broadband based service - you need your own broadband connection to use the service, and if you're stuck with a dial-up, then you can't take part.

Also included inside the box is the Xbox Communicator headset, and a basic game to allow gamers to play online before they need to purchase any of the full Xbox Live compatible titles.

The six launch titles are expected to be Unreal Championship, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon, NFL 2K3, NBA 2K3, Whacked!, and NFL Fever 2003. It's not known if the same games will be featured on the European version of the network, but it'd be suprising if they used quite the same line-up, as NFL games wouldn't be as popular with European gamers.

Features of the Xbox Live system include "Gamertag" which is your unique username, "Matchmaking QuickMatch" let's you get straight in to the action by the press of the button, and being launched straight in to a live game, and "OptiMatch" picks players who have similar skill levels. If you want to play against the same people again, then there's a "Friends list" which allows you to quickly see which of your friends are online, and invite them to play the game your playing.

Finally the Xbox Communicator allows for voice communication, meaning you can talk to other players, and hear them talking back, giving the chance for teamwork and also some friendly banter. A form of voice masking, and parental controls are also said to feature in the headset's operation.

As soon as we get confirmed details about the European launch date, titles and pricing, we'll let you know, here on GamesPaper.