Following Microsoft's disastrous Xbox Live Gold price hike announcement, Microsoft realised there were plenty of areas where Xbox Live needed to improve before gamers would accept such a move. Some of those improvements include free multiplayer access to free to play games, as well as other console features. Now, Microsoft is testing these new features publicly.
Those in the Xbox Insider program can now play free to play multiplayer titles and use party chat and looking for group features without an Xbox Live Gold membership. These changes are currently available in the Xbox Insider alpha ring for testing before rolling out to all users.
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
This is an important change for Microsoft, as Xbox fell behind its competitors like PlayStation and Nintendo, both of which do offer access to free to play multiplayer games without a subscription to PlayStation+ or Nintendo Switch Online.
These changes were announced in January. There is no time frame for the full rollout of these features yet, but we would expect the full rollout to take place within the next month or two.
KitGuru Says: Given that many of us thought Xbox Live Gold was going away this generation, the January price change announcement came as quite a shock. Fortunately, those decisions have been reversed and now, multiplayer on Xbox will be a bit fairer to those who play a lot of free to play titles, like Fortnite or Call of Duty Warzone.