Microsoft announced today that they are immediately dropping the requirement of an Xbox Live Gold subscription to play free-to-play games, instantly making over 50 games completely free-to-play on any Xbox system that can play them.
Among these games are popular free-to-play titles like Apex Legends, Fortnite, Warframe, ROBLOX Call of Duty: Warzone, Rogue Company and Destiny 2. Considering how large the playerbases for countless of these games are, the move to make them absolutely free-to-play (barring that you need to own the console, of course) is a major move for making the titles even more accessible than before.
As part of this process, Microsoft are also making some other features previously locked behind paywalls available completely free, namely the party chat and Looking for Group functions.
After reversing course on a price hike months ago, Microsoft took the opportunity to actually outline plans to drop the subscription for free-to-play games, announcing that they were hoping to get the change implemented “in the coming months.” Now the change has at last come, and it’s one of the rare times you’ll ever seen a truly pro-consumer move from one of these corporations.
There will be some trade-offs though. Per their accompanying FAQ, Free Play Weekends where you can play an online title for free over the weekend will be locked behind the paywall still as a benefit of Gold since they are typically for premium or paid titles. And of course not having Gold will mean that you’ll miss out on the typical benefits of Gold like free Games With Gold, and multiplayer functions for premium or paid games will still be locked behind a subscription.
Still, many of the biggest games these days are free-to-play online games, and so if you’re part of the audience that mostly plays those (like myself) this move is a huge boon for you. It’ll be interesting to see if Gold loses a significant number of subscribers and if perhaps something else, like Xbox Game Pass, becomes more of a priority in the mind of the Xbox audience. Considering how much emphasis Microsoft is placing on that subscription service these days, and what they’re doing to Gold here and now, you’ve got to wonder what’s in store for Gold.