Before we had Dreamcasts with modems and nics, before Xboxes came equipped with a network card, there was a factually forgotten peripheral called the XBand...
How much is this going to cost me?: The XBand, coming to us from the minds of Catapult, was pretty much just a modem in the shape of either a SuperNES or Sega Genesis cartridge, blue and black respectively. Back in 1995 one would think that such an add-on would be an arm and a leg. But more surprisingly then not, the XBand could be found usually retailing at or around $20 (US).
But how does it work?: The XBand worked by dialing into their server for your area, and being connected to people within your same dialing area. For $5 a month one could play up to 50 times on the XBand network with people in their local calling area. For $10 a month you got unlimited plays. If you wished to play with people outside of your local calling area, yet within the 48 states of the continental US, you were charged $4 an hour. Long distance calling could be locked out, along with parental controls (word filtering, and locking out certain hours for XBand play). They also were kind enough to keep track of your losses and wins, sometimes having tournaments with prizes given to the winners.
So I get to play games, big whoop!: Another interesting feature of the XBand was that you could both send and receive internet email, (donned X-Mail). You could also chat with other XBand users. However the one draw back was that you typed by moving the cursor around an on-screen keyboard. Supposedly there were keyboard add-ons for the XBand, but I personally never saw one on the market. Also the XBand had a call-waiting feature that alerted you when someone was calling you, so you could decide to kill your game, or let the caller just hang up.
Wow! Sounds awsome, why can't I get one today?: The XBand however, had downfalls much as all unsuccessful peripherals do. Your connection did not always go through or the other player would drop out due to phone noise, just getting tired of waiting or other miscellaneous things. This would sometimes result in a use of one of your 50 monthly turns. This tied in with financial problems, and the lack of supporting more popular games, eventually lead to the down fall of XBand. XBand (who was once Catapult), eventually merged with Mpath. Later on that was to become Mplayer, then HearMe, and finally GameSpy (which still produces rather disappointing software.) bought Mplayer.
In Conclusion: Pay to play gaming schemes never worked out in consoles, and sadly the XBand faded into the background to be forgotten. But thanks to many internet revolutions, you can still discuss the XBand at alt.games.exband on UseNet or find out more information via XBand.com or just using good old Google.com.