The need to have an Xbox Live Gold subscription to play free-to-play multiplayer games on Xbox looks set to be dropped soon.
Microsoft said in January that it intended to drop the Xbox Live Gold requirement for free-to-play games “as soon as possible in the coming months”.
And the change moved a step closer on Wednesday as Microsoft launched the latest beta test for Xbox Insiders.
“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,” it said.
Halo Infinite will feature a free-to-play multiplayer experience when the game is released for Xbox consoles in the fall/autumn of 2021.
In January, Microsoft reversed plans to increase the price of a six-month Xbox Live Gold subscription by 50% to $60.
“We messed up today and you were right to let us know,” it said. “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,” Microsoft added. “For free-to-play games, you will no longer need an Xbox Live Gold membership to play those games on Xbox.”
As well as access to online play, Xbox Live Gold offers subscribers purchase discounts and monthly free games that can be kept permanently on Xbox 360 or while a subscription remains active on Xbox Series X/S and Xbox One.
In 2019, Microsoft started bundling Xbox Live Gold with its Xbox Game Pass subscription service in the form of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which costs $14.99/£10.99 per month and features on demand gaming and access to EA Play.