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You no longer need Xbox Live Gold to play free-to-play games online on Xbox
by João Carrasqueira
Microsoft is finally allowing Xbox gamers to play online multiplayer games that are free-to-play without needing an Xbox Live Gold subscription. This includes some of the most popular games in the world, such as Fortnite, Rocket League, Apex Legends, Warframe, and so on.
This change was initially announced back in January, after Microsoft was forced to backtrack on a price increase it announced for the Xbox Live Gold service that would have made it cost twice as much. Then, some Xbox Insiders started being able to play online for free in March, and now the good news is spreading to all Xbox users.
It's a significant move considering that it's hard to consider a game to be free to play when it requires a monthly subscription on top of already having to pay for internet service. There are over 50 free-to-play games on Xbox platforms, so you'll now have access to plenty of experiences without having to shell out any more money.
Microsoft has surprisingly been behind both of its competitors in this regard, too. Sony doesn't require a PlayStation Plus subscription for online multiplayer in free-to-play games on its consoles, and even Nintendo - which is often considered to be behind the times with anything regarding online services - only requires a Switch Online membership for paid games. Still, it's better for it to happen late than never at all.
Xbox April update brings achievements to phones, Game Pass improvements
by João Carrasqueira
Microsoft has released the April update for Xbox consoles, including the Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One, as well as for the Xbox app on smartphones. As usual, this update brings a few new features, starting with the mobile app, which is finally getting widespread support for achievements. Microsoft announced it was rolling out this feature gradually last month, and everyone should have it by the end of April. You'll also be able to compare you achievements with your friends and see monthly leaderboards to compare against them.
Over on Xbox consoles, this update brings some improvements for Game Pass subscribers. For starters, you'll now see a section called Play with Friends, which lists Game Pass games that are being played by your friends and lets you jump in and join them. Game Pass is also getting new game recommendations, for those times when you can't decide what to play next. These recommendations are based on games you've played before, so it could make it easier to find something you like.
Microsoft is also making improvements to game downloads. If you're downloading a game and playing something else at the same time, your console can now let you know if that game is impacting your download speed, and give you the option to suspend it so you can download faster.
As for known issues with this release, not a whole lot has changed, though Microsoft has removed issues related to the Xbox Series X|S controller and FPS Boost from the list, so presumably, those things are working fine now. You should be able to download the update now, but it will also install automatically sooner or later.
Xbox Game Pass cloud gaming is finally coming to PC and iOS through the web
by João Carrasqueira
It's been a long time coming, but Microsoft has finally announced that it's going to start beta testing Xbox Game Pass cloud gaming for PC and iOS devices on the web starting tomorrow. The service launched for Android phones last September, and for a few months, you could test Microsoft's Project xCloud - the precursor to the full service - on iOS, but that ended up being scrapped due to Apple's App Store policies.
Initially, the Xbox Cloud Gaming will only be available via invitation for select Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers. Microsoft will begin sending out the invites tomorrow, and more people will be getting invites over time. Players from any of the 22 countries supported by Xbox Cloud Gaming will be eligible to be invited, so you may want to keep an eye out on your email if you want to participate.
Microsoft announced in December of last year that it would make the service available on both iOS and PCs this spring, and sure enough, it's happening, albeit not via a dedicated app as had been spotted in the past. Instead, players will use a web browser to visit xbox.com/play and get started. To play, you can use a Bluetooth or USB controller, or touch-based controls in supported games, and you'll be ready to go. There seems to be no mention of keyboard and mouse support, however.
Microsoft is a bit behind some of its competitors in terms of platform support, since both Stadia and GeForce Now already support PCs. Nvidia's service also runs on iOS, as does Amazon's Luna, which is also in preview. On the other hand, Microsoft includes a large library of games directly in Xbox Game Pass, making its service more compelling, especially after today's news.
Cyberpunk 2077 gets a new hotfix with a host of fixes and improvements
by Anmol Mehrotra
CD Projekt RED (CDPR) has released a new hotfix for Cyberpunk 2077. The Polish gaming company released version 1.2 update last month and the new hotfix builds upon the initial update. Here is the full changelog for the update:
Apart from Quest and Open World fixes, CDPR has also released some visual, UI and gameplay fixes. These include fixes for issues related to NPC clothing, NCPD officers spawning behind the player and more. Here is the changelog for the same:
Lastly, there are some stability and performance, console, and Stadia specific fixes. These include fixes for graphical issues, memory management improvements and more. You can head down to check out the changelog:
Cyberpunk 2077 had a rocky start with Sony delisting the game from PlayStation Store and Microsoft offering no questions asked refunds. Even with all the controversies, CDPR sold more than 13 million copies of the game in the first few weeks after the launch. Earlier today, the company confirmed that it plans to continue supporting Cyberpunk 2077 and sell it 'for years to come'.
You can now download Xbox Game Pass games with Amazon Alexa
by João Carrasqueira
Amazon has announced a new capability for the Xbox Alexa skill, making it possible to directly download games from Xbox Game Pass to their console using the voice assistant. The feature can be used on any Alexa-enabled device, like the Echo Buds, Echo Auto, and others.
While it's part of the Xbox skill for Alexa, users don't have to specifically summon the skill for this to work, they can just say "Alexa, download [game] from Xbox Game Pass". Interestingly, Amazon also notes that Microsoft is "the first gaming partner" to get this kind of direct download feature, which seems to suggest other integrations may be planned in the future.
In addition to downloading games, this integration with Game Pass also means users can ask what's popular, new, or leaving Game Pass, without even having to link their Xbox accounts. Of course, downloading a game does require account linking.
The announcement follows up on the recent launch of Alexa for Xbox, which brought the full suite of Alexa features to the console itself, though it still requires a dedicated Alexa device to work. This new Alexa capability is now available in the United States, but support for more regions is planned for the future. If you're wondering, only support for Xbox consoles is mentioned, so if you have Game Pass for PC, you won't be able to use this skill to download games there.