It may be hard for some to believe but Microsoft’s Xbox Live service just celebrated its 10th anniversary. Microsoft launched the online gaming service on November 15, 2002, exactly one year to the day after the original Xbox first hit retail.

In retrospect, Xbox Live was a significant cog in Microsoft’s console ambitions despite the fact that it’s been a paid service (for Gold membership) since its inception. As SlashGear put it, it’s also important because Xbox Live was the first online console service of its kind to get it right.

As alluded to earlier, Microsoft wasn’t the first company to give online gaming a try. Gaming services like the XBAND allowed Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis owners to compete against players from other parts of the country over phone lines.

It was a novel idea at the time but due to limited publicity and marketing, the service only ever reached around 700,000 subscribers at its peak before being acquired my Mpath Interactive. It pales in comparison to Xbox Live’s 40 million members but keep in mind, we’re talking about the mid 90s here. Sega gave it a valiant effort a few years later with the Dreamcast but as we all know, they fell short with that console.

To celebrate the milestone, Xbox Live members are invited to download Wreckateer free of charge for a limited time. Several other games like Battlefield 1943, Castle Crashers, Fruit Ninja Kinect, Geometry Wars Retro Evolved 2, Bastion, Peggle and Full House Poker are being made available for 50 percent off for a few days. Some lucky Xbox Live veterans have been receiving free custom Xbox 360 consoles from Microsoft as a reward for their loyalty.