Microsoft is currently testing a switch to Xbox Live Gold that would allow gamers to access certain online multiplayer features, such as multiplayer games on free titles, without an active Xbox Live Gold subscription, the The company announced Wednesday on the Xbox Insider Twitter account.
The company originally announced plans to make this change in conjunction with a reversal of a planned Xbox Live price hike in January. This news comes two days after Microsoft confirmed a rebrand for Xbox Live, announcing plans to call it the Xbox network.
Xbox Insiders members, specifically those from the Alpha Skip Ahead and Alpha programs, are currently testing a new version of the Xbox network that removes the multiplayer gold requirement on free games, Looking 4 Groups, and Party Chat. Microsoft said on Twitter that it is raising the Gold paywall for Insiders as a test before implementing that change for everyone.
Xbox Insiders at Alpha Skip Ahead & Alpha today we introduce some new features. Multiplayer in Free-to-play games, Looking 4 Groups, and Party Chat on Xbox no longer requires an Xbox Live Gold membership as we flew and tested these service changes prior to general availability.
– Xbox Insider (@xboxinsider) March 24, 2021
This change would allow players to interact more directly with games like Destiny 2 Y Fortnite, both free games that currently require players to have Xbox Live Gold to access multiplayer. This change is an acknowledgment by Microsoft of the way games have changed over the 18 years of Xbox Live. Now, players who don’t have the means to pay an additional $ 60 a year can eventually play with their friends.
The change is something that both Sony and Nintendo began to undertake years ago, removing the requirement for a subscription to PlayStation Plus or Nintendo Switch Online, respectively, for free games like Rocket league. Microsoft’s control with Gold has always been a bit tighter. The company required gamers to have Xbox Live Gold to use entertainment apps like Netflix until 2014. This move is another loosening of that control, bringing the Xbox more in line with its competitors.
The Xbox Insiders program brings new Xbox features to players before they are available to the general public. It’s like a beta test for a game, but it’s for the entire console interface and user experience.
These restrictions are now gone for Xbox Insiders, as of March 24. It is currently unclear when Microsoft will remove the paywall for all players.