The short answer is – yes! Ever since Rocket League went free-to-play in September 2020, you can play it online on Xbox without needing an Xbox Live Gold subscription.
This is thanks to a policy change Microsoft made regarding free-to-play games. Let me explain in more detail below…
A Quick History of Rocket League‘s Pricing
Back when it first launched in 2015, you had to purchase Rocket League in order to play. On Xbox One, it initially cost $19.99 to buy a digital copy.
Over the next 5 years, Rocket League became one of the most popular competitive multiplayer games out there. It blended high-speed soccer with outrageous physics-based car stunts flawlessly.
In 2020, Psyonix and Epic Games made the smart decision to convert Rocket League to a free-to-play game. This removed the $19.99 entry fee, allowing anyone to download and play Rocket League at no cost.
The thinking was that going free-to-play would drive higher engagement and grow the player base substantially. And it worked – Rocket League‘s revenue soared by 163% in the 8 months after going free-to-play!
Microsoft Changed Xbox Live Gold Requirements for Free Games
Historically, Xbox console owners needed an Xbox Live Gold subscription for online multiplayer gaming. It used to cost $9.99 per month, or you could get a 12-month membership for $59.99.
But in January 2022, Microsoft announced they were removing the Xbox Live Gold requirement for free-to-play games like Rocket League.
This was great news for gamers, as it meant nearly 100 popular free titles could now be played online without paying for Gold.
Here‘s a breakdown of the Xbox Live tiers after this change:
Xbox Live Free – Enables online multiplayer in all free-to-play games like Rocket League. No subscription cost.
Xbox Live Gold – Paid subscription (~$10/month) needed for online multiplayer in paid games. Also provides monthly Games with Gold.
So Xbox owners no longer have to factor in the cost of Xbox Live Gold when deciding to play free-to-play games online.
What Benefits Do You Get from Xbox Live Gold?
While not needed for games like Rocket League, here are the key benefits provided by an Xbox Live Gold subscription:
Online multiplayer access – You can play online in paid games like Call of Duty, Elden Ring, Battlefield, etc.
2-4 free games per month – Redeem Games with Gold each month, then the games are yours to keep. Over $700 worth of free games per year!
Exclusive discounts – Gold members save up to 75% on Xbox digital game purchases.
Cloud storage – Store game saves in the cloud so you can access them from any Xbox console.
Free in-game content – Get exclusive add-on content for certain games like player skins.
Parties & chat – Create cross-game parties and use voice chat with friends.
For the cost, Xbox Live Gold provides excellent extra value if you play a lot of paid titles. But again, it‘s no longer needed for freebies like Rocket League.
How Much Does Xbox Live Gold Cost in 2023?
After nearly 20 years at the same $59.99 yearly price, Microsoft hiked the cost of Xbox Live Gold in early 2022:
- 1 month – $10.99
- 3 months – $29.99
- 12 months – $119.99
That‘s double the previous rate when 12-month subscriptions went on sale for $39.99 – $59.99. Ouch!
In conjunction with the price increase, Microsoft stopped offering the 12-month Gold membership. So you can only purchase 1 or 3 months at a time now.
At the new rates, a full year of Gold costs $132 instead of the previous $60 on sale.
Microsoft claimed the price hike was to "continue improving the Xbox experience". But it still stung loyal fans who had been subscribing for years.
At least the free online play option in games like Rocket League cushions the blow a bit!
What Happens if You Don‘t Renew an Expired Xbox Live Gold Subscription?
If you choose not to renew your Xbox Live Gold membership when it expires, you‘ll lose access to most of its benefits like:
- Online multiplayer in paid games is blocked until you renew your subscription
- You can no longer play the Games with Gold titles you redeemed previously
- Exclusive member discounts on digital purchases go away
Basically, you revert back to a free Xbox Live account until you renew Gold.
The only thing you‘ll retain is the ability to play free-to-play games like Rocket League online. Xbox changed this policy so lapsing Gold members can still play 100+ free titles online.
So if you only play a few free games regularly like Rocket League, letting your Gold subscription expire isn‘t a big deal thanks to this change. But renew it if you want to play paid blockbusters online.
Can You Get Xbox Live Gold for Free?
There are a few ways to get Xbox Live Gold temporarily for free, including:
Free trial – Microsoft offers new Xbox owners a 1-month free Xbox Live Gold trial. After it expires, you must pay to continue benefits.
Microsoft Rewards – Earn points through Bing searches and other activities, then redeem points for 1-month Gold trials.
Game sharing – Set your "Home" Xbox as a friend‘s console who has Gold to share their membership.
Giveaways – Occasionally Gold trials or codes are given away with contests or brand promotions.
But there‘s no permanent way to get Gold for free. The options above let you trial it temporarily or earn short memberships through Microsoft Rewards.
For ongoing access, you‘ll need to pay for either a monthly or 3-month subscription. Or get Xbox Game Pass Ultimate which includes all Gold benefits…
Does Xbox Game Pass Include Xbox Live Gold?
Xbox Game Pass and Game Pass Ultimate both bundle in an Xbox Live Gold membership:
Xbox Game Pass ($9.99/month) – Gives you Game Pass for Xbox consoles and Windows PC, along with Xbox Live Gold benefits.
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate ($14.99/month) – Bundles together Game Pass for console, PC and cloud gaming, along with Xbox Live Gold access. This is the best value if you want to play games across various devices.
So with either Game Pass option, Gold comes included without needing to pay extra. You get 100+ free games from the Game Pass catalog, and Gold‘s perks like free monthly Games with Gold, online multiplayer for paid games, exclusive deals, etc.
For avid gamers, Game Pass Ultimate essentially gives you an all-access pass to tons of free games and discounts on paid games, all for one affordable monthly fee. Much better value than buying games individually!
Game Pass Ultimate Perks vs Xbox Live Gold
Here‘s a quick comparison of what‘s included with a standard Xbox Live Gold membership vs upgrading to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate:
|Benefit||Xbox Live Gold||Xbox Game Pass Ultimate|
|Online multiplayer for paid games||✅||✅|
|Online multiplayer for free-to-play games||✅||✅|
|Monthly Games with Gold||✅||✅|
|Exclusive member discounts||✅||✅|
|Game Pass game catalog||❌||✅|
|Cloud gaming via Xbox Cloud Gaming||❌||✅|
Game Pass Ultimate basically supercharges an Xbox Live Gold membership by adding a Netflix-style game catalog and cloud gaming. It‘s the obvious choice if you play Xbox games daily.
But for casual players mainly sticking to free-to-play games like Rocket League, a free Xbox Live account gets the job done thanks to Microsoft‘s policy change.
Is Rocket League Still Worth Playing in 2023?
Rocket League is more popular today than ever before! It had over 75 million registered players as of 2021. And going free-to-play opened the floodgates for millions more new fans.
Here are a few reasons why Rocket League remains an addictive smash hit:
Quick to learn, tough to master – Anyone can jump in and have fun immediately, but mastering advanced maneuvers and strategies takes hundreds of hours of practice. This gives the game incredible skill depth.
High intensity competitive action – Short 5-minute matches keep the pace frantic. You‘ll constantly grit your teeth in close games decided by last-second scores.
Fluid, responsive controls – Vehicles handle like a dream. Perfect controls are key for nailing precision shots and maneuvers.
Awesome customization – Tons of cosmetic items let you personalize your car into a unique battle-car that matches your style. Or just make a funny meme car!
Cross-platform support – Play with or against friends on any platform. Xbox, PlayStation, Switch and PC players can all compete together.
Give Rocket League a spin if you haven‘t already – it offers a one-of-a-kind sports action experience. And remember, it‘s 100% free to play online as an Xbox owner thanks to Microsoft‘s smart Xbox Live Gold policy change for free games.