Xbox begins testing unlocked multiplayer in free-to-play games

If you've always thought it was strange that you still need an Xbox Live Gold membership to play free-to-play multiplayer games on Xbox consoles, then we've got some good news for you: it looks like that requirement will soon be gone. As promised earlier in the year, Microsoft has started testing functionality that will allow Xbox users play multiplayer in free-to-play games without requiring an Xbox Live Gold subscription.

Unfortunately, this testing is limited to Xbox Insiders in the Alpha Skip Ahead and Alpha rings today, so it's still in pretty early testing and might not be available on a wide scale for a hile yet. Still, it's exciting to see this go into testing not only because it unlocks multiplayer in free-to-play games, but also because it unlocks Looking 4 Groups and Party Chat – features that were similarly put behind the Xbox Live Gold paywall.

Xbox's Larry Hyrb and Brad Rossetti shared the news today on Twitter. Microsoft originally promised that it would unlock multiplayer gaming in free-to-play titles back in January, following a reversal of the decision to raise Xbox Live Gold prices.

The proposed price hike lasted less than a day, with Microsoft originally planning to increase the cost of monthly Xbox Live Gold subscriptions by $1 (thereby bringing the total monthly cost to $10.99) and 3-month Gold subscriptions $5 (to bring them up to $29.99 per three months). Microsoft was met with a lot of backlash over that announcement, and later that same day announced that it would keep pricing where it was while also unlocking free-to-play multiplayer in the future.

Now, it seems, the time for that is finally upon us. Since these are just hitting Alpha testers in the Xbox Insider program, it's probably going to be a matter of weeks (if not longer) before it's live for everyone. We'll let you know when Microsoft starts rolling this feature out on a wider scale, so stay tuned.