Microsoft have reportedly encouraged developers to get on board with their vision for making next-gen game upgrades free from Xbox One to Xbox Series X, hopefully embracing their Smart Delivery Scheme. While there are still ways to charge, this has included the company ruling out the idea of offering a Series X upgrade as a form of paid DLC.
There are still plenty of options available to developers looking to bridge the divide between generations. They can do so via Smart Delivery, as games like Cyberpunk 2077, Dirt 5 and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla are doing, or create their own schemes, such as with EA’s Dual Entitlement, which imposes and end date on the ability to upgrade.
However, Microsoft are narrowing the options for those wanting to charge for the upgrade. Having ruled out paid DLC as an upgrade mechanism, developers and publishers are still able to offer cross-gen bundles, as seen with NBA 2K21, where the next-gen version is sold as part of a premium $99.99/£84.99. Alternatively, companies will be able to offer the full Xbox Series X game at a discounted price to owners of the Xbox One version via the Microsoft Store, or set up their own trade in schemes at retail.
In a statement sent to Video Games Chronicle, a Microsoft spokesperson said that “developers and publishers ultimately decide how they deliver their games, and we work with them to provide the best possible experience based on their needs.”
Ruling out paid DLC upgrades but allowing for discounted games on the store is a seemingly minor distinction to make, but a good way to keep clarity for end users looking to jump console generations. When developers would surely offer the Series X enhanced versions of the game for sale separately, having a paid DLC system just muddies the waters surrounding next-gen games and backward compatibility.
Interestingly, VGC also reported on some quirks of the Smart Delivery system. For one, third parties cannot opt into the scheme after a game’s launch, with Smart Delivery games being treated differently within the Xbox infrastructure. Outside of Smart Delivery, games like NBA 2K21 and FIFA 21 will not be able to share some kinds of save data back and forth between generations, though they will be able to share Xbox Live elements like multiplayer.
Smart Delivery games will have a single SKU, share Xbox Live saves, achievements and more, and are set up to launch the version optimised for the specific console.
It will be interesting to see how Sony continue to handle the issue of next-gen game upgrades for PlayStation 5. Compared to Microsoft, they’ve taken a much more hands off approach, choosing not to revive their Cross-buy branding but still allowing developers to offer free upgrades or paid upgrades as they see fit. We’ll have to wait and see if paid DLC upgrades to PlayStation 5 become a thing.