Yesterday, Microsoft announced that party chat, which was previously only available to Xbox Live Gold members, will soon be free for all Xbox players. The company revealed the news in one chirping with phrases like “Alpha”, “Alpha Skip-Ahead” and “flighting.” In the meantime accompanying blog post contained a string of numbers: 2104-210323-0000. What the hell do all those things mean?
The short version is that the whole thing is a bunch of references to what is going on Xbox Insider application, which allows Xbox users to test upcoming features before they are made available to a larger population. Earlier this month, for example, the program allowed some members have to cancel games while other games are being downloaded, which can significantly increase the download speed. In some cases, members can even preview upcoming games.
That’s not all. In January, Microsoft announced (as part of a face about a proposed drastic Xbox Live rate hike) that once a year Xbox Live Gold membership will no longer be required to play free-to-play games, and reverse a years-long precedent.
This latest Xbox Insider rollout launches the ball, lifting that limitation for players in the Alpha and “Alpha Skip-Ahead” levels of the app. Soon enough, members of the Beta and lower levels will also be able to play Fortnite, a free game without paying for a monthly Xbox Live Gold subscription. Microsoft has still not said when that change will roll out to the general player base.
Okay, I’m interested in that. How do I register?
Easy: Turn on the Xbox. Go to the store. Open the search function and enter “insider”. Download the Xbox Insider Bundle app, launch it, and then click the “join” button. (It’s the only one.) That’s it. You’re in!
So how does this work?
Xbox Insider offers benefits based on a tier system. There are five levels, three of which you can actually achieve:
- Omega: This is the starting level. You will receive updates just before they go live to the general player base – still early access, but without the bragging rights and shiny VIP veneer.
- Delta: After being part of the program for at least one month, you will be eligible to hit Delta level, provided you have also reached Xbox Insider XP level two. (Yes, like a video game, Xbox Insider has levels. I agree. That is annoying.) You are guaranteed to receive updates before the general player base. In some cases, when updates require additional testing, you can get them before people in the Alpha and Beta levels. Fancy.
- Beta: If you’ve been in the Xbox Insider program for three months and have reached level five, you’ll be eligible for the Beta level. These people gain access to updates shortly after those in the Alpha level.
Alpha and ultra-exclusive Alpha Skip-Ahead levels are invitations only. Do not sweat them.
You do not automatically jump between levels when you unlock them. Once you have reached a new level, go to the “Preview” tab, click on “Xbox Update Preview”, open the “info” submenu, and click on “Manage”. It should draw up a list of all the levels you have unlocked. (Side note: This method is also how to deselect the program. Just go through these steps and click “allow preview”.)
One more thing: You do not have to start from scratch if you change consoles. As the Xbox stores data, Xbox Insider status follows your account. Once you have opened the app on your new computer, you will have access to everything you had access to on your old computer.
Why don’t I just level up automatically?
Vaunted tiers provide early access to new features, which is super cool, but these features have generally gone through less testing at the time and thus run a higher risk of errors. By giving you the opportunity to change level, you will have control over the risk of encounter errors or experience Xbox features in an unfinished state.
How do I level up?
In the Xbox Insider app, navigate to the “Activities” tab. You see a series of short surveys, each of which will give you a bit of XP to answer multiple choice questions. One of these activities is the “weekly pulse”, which requires a response to a severe brain twist. This week? “When was the last time you submitted an error report?” It’s a simple 5 XP.
You even get experience points by completing the tutorial, which is called – I do not shit you – “My First Quest.” It consists of two questions. You get 10 XP to sit through it, a task that takes you a full 17 seconds.
It takes 20 XP to hit level two. Join rank, here I come!
Yes, yes, good for you. How much will this cost me?
Zero dollars. Come on, you’re mainly focusing on product updates for Microsoft, and that’s not to say about the pure dthat you submit with each completed questionnaire. If anything, you should be sheep paid.