Xbox owners will soon no longer have to pay for an Xbox Live Gold subscription to enjoy otherwise free games on their consoles. Wednesdays update The Xbox Alpha Insiders Update Preview Program (Version 2104.210323-0000) states, “Multiplayer in Free Games, Looking 4 Groups, and Party Chat on Xbox no longer requires an Xbox Live Gold membership.” According to the update, these functions will be tested with insiders “before general availability”.
Microsoft announced this step for the first time back in January As the company was busy reversing a controversial planned spike in Xbox Live Gold prices. At the time, Microsoft said the free change would come “as soon as possible in the coming months,” but the insider rollout suggests it will hit all Xbox gamers shortly.
Microsoft’s decision brings the service in line with major console competitors. At Sony Since 2014, fees have been charged for multiplayer gameplay on the PlayStation NetworkIt contained a special spin-off for “a selection of free-to-play multiplayer titles” [that] will be available without PS Plus membership. “Nintendo included a similar spin-off for free-to-play titles such as Fourteen days if it started charging the Switch Online service in 2018.
However, since the days of the Xbox 360, Microsoft has required a paid Xbox Live Gold subscription to access console multiplayer games. In fact, users needed an Xbox Live Gold subscription to access streaming media apps like Netflix and Hulu on Xbox consoles (in addition to the subscription fees for those services) until 2014.
Microsoft back in July announced that the imminent Halo Infinite would include a free multiplayer component in addition to the standard paid single-player campaign. But in August the company Rumors put down that it got rid of Xbox Live Gold or made the service free. “We currently have no plans to discontinue Xbox Live Gold,” the company said. “It’s an important part of playing Xbox today and it will be in the future.”
Still, the basic $ 5 a month Xbox Live Gold online service seemed less important to Microsoft in recent years as it was dwarfed by Xbox Game Pass and its huge selection of downloadable and streaming games. Since 2019, Microsoft has regularly to allow users to upgrade to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate (which also includes all of the features for Xbox Live Gold) for up to three years of Xbox Live Gold subscription time for just $ 1. This suggests Microsoft is aiming to get current Xbox Live subscribers on board for the long term with the larger Game Pass Ultimate plan for $ 15 per month.