Back at the start of the year, Microsoft said it would make it so that an Xbox Live Gold membership wouldn't be required to play free-to-play games like Fortnite and Apex Legends online. The company has now started testing a dashboard update that enables that policy change. Moreover, in a surprise addition, it also makes party chat available to non-Gold subscribers.
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— Brad Rossetti (@WorkWombatman) March 24, 2021
Microsoft's decision to remove the payment requirement for freemium multiplayer games came when it reversed course on a planned Xbox Live Gold price hike in late January. Once the policy change is put in place for everyone sometime later this year, it will put Microsoft in line with both Sony and Nintendo, neither of which require you to subscribe to their premium multiplayer services if you want to play free-to-play games online. Today's update also includes the Xbox Network change spotted in recent days. Xbox Insiders in the Alpha and Alpha Skip Ahead rings can download the new software.