Microsoft announced back in January that it would finally make free-to-play games completely free on Xbox consoles later this year, and the Xbox Live Gold requirement is going away for select Xbox Insiders starting today. After installing the latest OS updates released today, Xbox Insiders in the Alpha Skip Ahead & Alpha will no longer need an Xbox Live Gold subscription to play F2P multiplayer games, using Looking 4 Groups, and accessing Party Chat on Xbox consoles.
Xbox Insiders in Alpha Skip Ahead & Alpha today we are flighting 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 flight and test these service changes ahead of general availability
— Xbox Insider (@xboxinsider) March 24, 2021
Microsoft will be testing these changes with Xbox Insiders ahead of general availability, and for now, some free-to-play games like Call of Duty: Warzone and Destiny 2 still require an Xbox Live Gold subscription. If you're interested in the beta test, keep in mind that the Xbox Insider Alpha & Alpha Skip Ahead rings are invite-only, so you can't join the Xbox Insider program right now to enjoy free multiplayer games on Xbox consoles. However, these service changes will later make their way to the Beta, Delta, and Omega rings which are open to all Xbox Insiders.
Xbox gamers have been asking Microsoft for years to make free-to-play games truly free on Xbox consoles, but it definitely took some time for the company to catch up with what Sony did during the previous console generation. However, the Redmond giant has finally listened up after facing a huge backlash over Xbox Live Gold price increases right in the middle of a worldwide pandemic.
In other Xbox Live-related news, the Xbox team also confirmed earlier this week that Xbox Live would be rebranded to "Xbox Network" to better separate the online infrastructure from the paid Xbox Live Gold subscription. The latter isn't going away and will remain necessary for playing multiplayer games that aren't free-to-play on Xbox consoles.