Xbox gamers in the UK, Germany and France finally got the chance to battle against the rest of the world today, as Microsoft's launched its Live online service.

For £39.99 users will receive a starter kit, which includes a headset, playable demos and a 12-month subscription to the broadband online gaming network. While a large number of Xbox console games are available, few Live-enabled titles have yet to be launched.

The service was launched in the US in November and more than 350,000 gamers have subscribed so far. Microsoft has invested heavily in its online service and is hoping it will be as successful in Europe.

Xbox Live is available across through most broadband ISPs including BT Openworld, NTL and Telewest Blueyonder. It is not yet available via AOL High speed cable or DSL packages. ISDN, satellite and dialup services are not supported.

Subscribers receive a Gamer tag. This will be their Live identity and will appear on high score lists for every online game they play, so needs to be chosen carefully.

Sony's PS2 online gaming platform will be launched here at the end of March. For trials and more information click here.