You will no longer need Xbox Live Gold to access Party Chat, Looking 4 Groups and Free-To-Play Multiplayer features on Xbox.
The news was revealed by Xbox Preview Program developer Brad Rossetti on Twitter. "Multiplayer in Free-to-play games, Looking 4 Groups and Party Chat on Xbox no longer requires an Xbox Live Gold membership," Rossetti said. The changes are being debuted to Xbox Insiders in the Alpha Skip Ahead and Alpha programs at the moment "ahead of general availability."
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
This means that when the update comes to all Xbox users, players will no longer need an Xbox Live Gold subscription to create a party chat with their friends, look for a multiplayer group or play free-to-play multiplayer games on Xbox.
It's not clear exactly how many games will be compatible with this change, but there are plenty of high-profile free-to-play titles on Xbox like Apex Legends and Destiny 2 that will benefit from this.
The news arrives as Xbox has renamed Xbox Live to Xbox Network to "distinguish the underlying service from Xbox Live Gold memberships.” In other Microsoft news, the company is reportedly in talks to purchase Discord for over $10 Billion.