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Microsoft releases unused Xbox Live gamertags back into the wild

When the Xbox 360 first launched back in 2005, it was easy enough to sign up for an Xbox Live account and settle on a complicated number string-free Gamertag that suited you. As the service has risen in popularity, more and more of the “good” usernames have been swallowed up by the growing community. The console’s built-in Gamertag suggestion feature literally pairs up random words in trying to offer players a unique way of identifying themselves, but the chance these days of scoring a handle that you actually want and think up yourself is small.

Thank Microsoft then for announcing plans to “unlock” previously taken Gamertags that are no longer in use for one reason or another. The news comes from Xbox Live community leader Major Nelson, who writes that the process is going to take some time and gamers shouldn’t go looking for a list of newly available names, since there isn’t one. Dead Gamertags are being revived “daily” however, so those looking to make a name change are advised to check back often.

There are a couple of reasons why a previously used Gamertag would be rendered “dead.” It doesn’t sound like Microsoft intends to pull the plug on any long-unused accounts, so the new handles will instead most likely be culled from canceled, inactive accounts and banned users. Prepare to pay for any changes though. An 800 MS Points cost is attached.

To check to see if a Gamertag is available, sign into Xbox Live and head to the My Xbox panel on your console’s dashboard. Scroll over to your gamercard (the one your Avatar stands in front of) and press A, then select Change Gamertag from the list that pops up. You can add MS Points right from there too, should you be short on virtual funds.