For as long as Xbox Live has been a thing, a subscription has been necessary to enjoy multiplayer online gaming on Xbox consoles.
However, earlier this year, Microsoft said it was making an exception for popular games that are free-to-play on other platforms, the likes of PUBG and Fortnite, for example.
Now the company appears to be starting along that path, by testing a dashboard update enabling multiplayer in some of those free-to-play games. The update also unlocks Party Chat for non-Xbox Live subscribers, which is something we weren’t expecting.
Right now, the update is being tested among Xbox Insiders in the Alpha Skip Ahead and Alpha cohorts, but the changes are coming to everyone in due course. It’s a policy that Sony and Nintendo have had for quite a while now, so it’s good to know Microsoft is arriving to the party, albeit late.
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In a tweet, Xbox Preview Program chief Brad Rossetti, said: “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.”
The announcement initially came in January when Microsoft also reversed plans to raise the price of Xbox Live following a backlash from subscribers.
The company noted at the time: “We messed up today and you were right to let us know. Connecting and playing with friends is a vital part of gaming and we failed to meet the expectations of players who count on it every day. As a result, we have decided not to change Xbox Live Gold pricing.“We’re turning this moment into an opportunity to bring Xbox Live more in line with how we see the player at the center of their experience. For free-to-play games, you will no longer need an Xbox Live Gold membership to play those games on Xbox. We are working hard to deliver this change as soon as possible in the coming months.”