Microsoft might soon drop the need for Xbox Live Gold (recently rebranded Xbox Network) if you only play free to play multiplayer games on Xbox, potentially opening up a large portion of its player base to online play that previously was restricted to offline gaming only. The feature is currently being tested by the Microsoft Insider alpha testers, and could well be rolled out to the wider Xbox community later this year.
Since the early days off Xbox, you've had to pay to play online. The Xbox Live Gold membership isn't expensive, but some still prefer not to pay it. That's meant they were limited to playing games locally on their console and couldn't enjoy many of the interactive multiplayer features of the wider Xbox ecosystem. With this change, that might... change. For free to play games at least. Party Chat and Looking 4 Groups features may also become accessible to those who haven't paid for a Live subscription.
This is a feature that will need to be enabled by individual developers, so cold take some time to flesh out — Microsoft has acknowledged that Insiders can't trial free to play online gaming in Destiny 2 or Call of Duty: Warzone — but Microsoft is working with developers to make that happen in as wide a range of games as possible.
Do you know anyone who would be able to take advantage of this feature? Every Xbox gamer I've known has always paid for live, but maybe there are more out there than we think.