Microsoft surprised gamers all over the world with a massive info dump about the Xbox Series X on Monday morning. Many of the features and specifications that fans had been speculating about were suddenly confirmed, and although this was certainly an exciting development, the raw power of the next-gen console didn’t come as much of a surprise. That said, there were a few surprises sprinkled in the blog post, one of which blew us away.
When the Xbox One and PS4 debuted in 2013, there were still triple-A console games coming out for Xbox 360 and PS3. In order to make the transition easier, publishers were launching old-gen and new-gen versions of their games, such as Call of Duty: Ghosts, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, and Battlefield 4. The problem was that if you wanted to play the new Call of Duty on your Xbox One or PS4 when you upgraded, you’d need to buy it again. This is where Microsoft’s Smart Delivery system comes into play, simplifying the transition process even further.
“This technology empowers you to buy a game once and know that – whether you are playing it on Xbox One or Xbox Series X – you are getting the right version of that game on whatever Xbox you’re playing on,” Phil Spencer, Head of Xbox, explained. “We’re making the commitment to use Smart Delivery on all our exclusive Xbox Game Studios titles, including Halo Infinite, ensuring you only have to purchase a title once in order to play the best available version for whichever Xbox console you choose to play on. This technology is available for all developers and publishers, and they can choose to use it for titles that will be released on Xbox One first and come to the Xbox Series X later.”
To recap, every Xbox Game Studios game that releases on both consoles will support Smart Delivery, which means you’ll only have to pay for it once and you’ll own both the Xbox One and Series X versions of that game. As Spencer noted, third-party developers and publishers will have access to the feature as well, and while they are not obligated to use it, CD Projekt Red has already confirmed Cyberpunk 2077 will use Smart Delivery:
Gamers should never be forced to purchase the same game twice or pay for upgrades. Owners of #Cyberpunk2077 for Xbox One will receive the Xbox Series X upgrade for free when available. https://t.co/nfkfFLj85w
— Cyberpunk 2077 (@CyberpunkGame) February 24, 2020
As exciting as the launch of a new console can be, not everyone is going to be able to upgrade on day one. But the notion that those people might continue to buy cross-generation games and then be forced to re-buy them once they upgrade is even more ludicrous in 2020 than it was in 2013. Thankfully, that won’t be the case for all of Microsoft’s big Xbox exclusives and at least one of the biggest third-party games of the year. Here’s hoping that other studios follow suit and give everyone the chance to start building up their next-gen libraries before they upgrade.
Separately, it’s hard to imagine that Sony won’t follow suit with a similar cross-buy feature of its own. Failing to match Microsoft here wouldn’t exactly doom the PlayStation 5, but Sony really can’t afford to let its biggest rival have such a compelling addition all to itself. At the very least, Sony will hear from a bunch of unhappy fans if it doesn’t bring cross-buy to the PS5 in some capacity. Perhaps we’ll finally hear some official PS5 news soon.