Anyone who wants to play multiplayer online on an Xbox is known to need a paid gold membership. With regard to free-to-play games, this could change in the future, because a first test run is now taking place.
It wasn’t long ago that Microsoft wanted to raise the price of a gold membership on Xbox Live – now known as the Xbox Network – by a hefty price. The shitstorm that followed was so huge that it quickly returned to the well-known price structure. At the same time, it was announced that it would be exploring ways in which free-to-play games can be played online without paying a subscription in the future. We are now serious about this!
A first test run has now started for members of the Insider Program. They can now take part in a first alpha test, during which free-to-play titles can be played online in multiplayer even without a gold membership.
A corresponding update should be available shortly via Alpha Skip Ahead and as Alpha Insider. This will test three key features without an existing Gold subscription: access to multiplayer functions in free-to-play games such as Fortnite as well as the social features Looking for Group and a party chat.
In this way Microsoft would ensure that free-to-play gamers, for example, will not be excluded from a chat function in the future, because this is also only accessible via gold membership so far. So far, this also made sense insofar as only subscribers were able to play with each other online anyway. If players can play online without a subscription, social features such as chat must inevitably also be accessible away from Xbox Live Gold.
When the new feature will leave the test phase and free-to-play players can also access the functions live is not yet known and will probably also depend on the course of the test phase.