Xbox players can now chat and play online for free — but there's a catch

xbox live preview program
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft is making good on its promise to improve Xbox Live by getting rid of the paid membership requirement to play free-to-play multiplayer games online. Xbox Insiders are currently testing these new features ahead of a public rollout. 

Team Xbox's Brad Rosetti shared the development on Twitter , saying that members of the Xbox Insider preview program won't need Xbox Live Gold for multiplayer in free-to-play games, party chat or the Looking for Group feature. 

See more

While Microsoft has announced that paid membership won't be a prerequisite for free-to-play games in the not-too-distant future, the news of free party chat hasn't garnered quite as much attention. But the move could be a massive benefit to players who are perhaps already paying for Xbox Game Pass, and don't want an Xbox Live subscription running alongside it. At the moment, only the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate tier also has a Gold membership baked into the price.

The Xbox Insider program is a great way to get an early peek at upcoming Xbox features. With the launch of the recent Xbox Series X consoles, expect Microsoft to do a lot of fine-tuning, with opportunities to try out new features before going public. You can find out more about how to sign up on the Xbox Insider Program FAQ page

Microsoft seems to be hashing out the finer details of its online service as Game Pass gains traction. The company is renaming Xbox Live to Xbox Network, and is still figuring out what to do about Xbox Live Gold. The company tried to hike up the price back in January, but quickly walked it back after the swell of negative reception the announcement received. 

We believe that Microsoft should have ditched the requirement to pay for party chat a while ago, especially with the propagation of free voice chat services, like Discord. Microsoft may be interested in buying Discord, and could integrate the chat program into its PC and console services. The companies are still in talks for now, but with all of these improvements in the works, Sony might need to step things up.

Shabana Arif

Shabana is T3's News Editor covering tech and gaming, and has been writing about video games for almost a decade (and playing them since forever). As well as contributing to Tom's Guide, she's had bylines at major gaming sites during her freelance career before settling down at T3, and has podcasts, streaming, and video content under her belt to boot. Outside of work, she also plays video games and should really think about expanding her hobbies.