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Smart Delivery on Xbox Series X explained: games upgraded for next-gen

Smart Delivery Xbox Series X
(Image credit: Future)

Smart Delivery on Xbox Series X is set to be a big feature for Microsoft when the console launches later this year and could be a great opportunity for developers and publishers to help gamers save some cash while they make the transition between two generations of console.

If you're after a full rundown on everything we know about the new Microsoft console, be sure to take a peek at our guide to everything we know so far about the Xbox Series X.

So what is Smart Delivery?

(Image credit: 343 Industries)

Smart Delivery is a cross-generational feature of select Xbox games that essentially mean a single purchase will allow you to play that game on both the Xbox One and the upcoming Xbox Series X. 

This will primarily include first-party Xbox Games Studios titles, but Microsoft has opened up the technology to other developers and publishers too and some have already signed up.

So for example, if you buy Cyberpunk 2077 on Xbox One you will be able to use that same copy, physical or digital, to then play the game on your new Xbox Series X should you buy the new console in the future. And this upgrade will be free.

You might actually already own a Smart Delivery game as Gears 5 is on the list too. So you'll be able to play the game with a major (we hope at least) graphical upgrade on Xbox Series X on day one. Not bad at all seeing as the game is pretty cheap nowadays or it's free if you're already signed up to the excellent Xbox Game Pass.

What games will have Smart Delivery?

Confirmed titles so far are mainly ones to be published by Microsoft, like Halo Infinite, but Namco Bandai and Ubisoft have joined the fun by confirming Assassin's Creed Valhalla and Cyberpunk 2077 will support Smart Delivery. Here's the full list of confirmed Xbox Series X smart delivery games so far.

  • Assassin's Creed Valhalla
  • Call of the Sea
  • Chorus
  • Cyberpunk 2077
  • Destiny 2
  • Dirt 5
  • Gears 5
  • Halo Infinite
  • Metal: Hellslinger
  • Rainbow Six: Siege
  • Scarlet Nexus
  • The Ascent
  • The Second Extinction
  • Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2
  • Yakuza: Like a Dragon

Hey, isn't Madden NFL 21 on Smart Delivery?

No. EA is going a different way, although you'd be forgiven for thinking it was included as a Smart Delivery title if you watched the recent press event where Microsoft talked about the system.

EA will be offering a time-limited free upgrade to the Series X version of the game to players that buy Madden NFL 21 before December 31, 2020 on Xbox One. You will then need to make sure you have upgraded to a Xbox Series X console by March 31, 2021.

So it's almost the same thing, but with a time limit that encourages you to pick up the game close to launch. It's a bit of a stingy deal compared to what's being offered elsewhere with proper Smart Delivery titles, but there's plenty of time for EA to change its mind on this. This is the only game where this upgrade 'deal' has been mentioned, but we'd expect FIFA 21 at least to get the same treatment this year. It will certainly be interesting to see which side of the fence the likes of Activision, 2K and Capcom land too, as they love a bit of a cheeky remaster.

Is this the end of paying for remasters?

(Image credit: 2K Games)

New money for old rope is always going to be a thing in life and gaming isn't going to escape that anytime soon. While we have seen PC gamers on Steam sometimes get a 'remaster' upgrade version of a game for free when one hits consoles, we're not expecting Smart Delivery to simply replace remasters if publishers decide they want older Xbox One games to get a new lease of life on the Xbox Series X.

Often, game remasters try and sell themselves on the added value of them coming with a game's premium DLC content (story expansions, maps, race tracks and so on) thrown in for the asking price.

Will pre-owned Smart Delivery games still have the upgrade option?

That's a good question. We think Microsoft has learned its lesson from the pre-launch period of the Xbox One when the company briefly considered banning pre-owned games on the upcoming console. Seriously, that whole time was a real PR trainwreck. 

We'd be very surprised if the free next-gen upgrade in these games came via a one-time download code in the box. It would be a publicity nightmare and a backward step against all the positive buzz Microsoft has been building up lately.

Will cheaper Xbox One-only non-Smart Delivery versions be available?

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

It doesn't look like that's going to be a thing and Smart Delivery-enabled titles shouldn't cost anything extra either, so you won't be forced to choose between Smart Delivery copies and standard one-console-only versions of games like Halo Infinite and Dirt 5. Microsoft wants to keep things simple and ensure that anyone buying games like Halo Infinite or Cyberpunk 2077 to play on Xbox One will always have that option of playing it on the next-gen Xbox Series X should they decide to upgrade a few months, or even a few years later.

So is the Series X game already on the disc of the Xbox One game?

Highly doubtful, especially with some Smart Delivery games being released months before the Xbox Series X console. Instead, when you put your disc into the Series X, we expect it to trigger a download update, likewise, if you're browsing your digital library, an option to download the new Xbox Series X version of the game should be waiting for you.

If you had a standard Xbox One and then upgraded to an Xbox One X you might have noticed a bunch of games in your library suddenly had massive updates cued up so they could get all those lovely new 4K textures. We're expecting something similar when your new Xbox Series X detects Smart Delivery games in the disc drive or your digital purchase library. If your current Xbox is stuffed to the gills with content, be sure to check out our roundup of the best prices and models for Xbox One external hard drives.

Can you play Smart Delivery games on both consoles at will?

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

If you're thinking of not selling on your old console when you pick up an Xbox Series X pre-order, then you should be able to play games like Halo Infinite back and forth on both machines. This is very handy if you have the consoles set up in different rooms as you should just be able to fire up your save file on the other console and carry on where you left off. 

That being said, we're hoping the Series X versions of these games is going to be so good, that we can't bear to downgrade the experience by going back to the last-gen version. If it's not, then what's the point of any of this?!

Is Smart Delivery coming to PS5?

Smart Delivery seems to be a term coined by Microsoft, so if something similar does come along for PS5, it'll be called something different. Sony has been much slower about releasing information about the PS5 so far though.

But given this is quite the feather in Microsoft's cap, Sony would be foolish to not at least allow cross-gen titles like Cyperpunk 2077 and Assassin's Creed Valhalla to upgrade for free too.  

There is actually a precedent for this too from Sony as anyone who remembers Cross-Buy titles will tell you. Some purchases of select PS3, PS Vita, or PS4 games unlocked versions on the other Sony platforms at no extra charge via PSN. Some of these titles would support Cross-Save too meaning you could carry your in-game progress between platforms. We are expecting a sort of similar cloud-save functionality as standard between Xbox One and Xbox Series X though.

Conversely, we can also see Sony sticking to its guns and making sure its big, as yet (still!) unannounced, flagship titles are strictly-PS5 only in order to fully take advantage of the console's new capabilities.

So Smart Delivery is a good thing, right?

(Image credit: Xbox Wire)

Absolutely. Titles with Smart Delivery compatibility are set to be fantastic value for gamers wanting to play some of the year's biggest games before the Xbox Series X is released and then not having to buy the same game again on a new console. 

And seeing as titles like Cyberpunk and Assassin's Creed are going to be huge games, that will easily last 100 hours between them, there's a good chance many gamers won't have finished them by the time the new console lands.

And because these games are technically Xbox One games at original purchase we're also optimistic it will keep prices down. We're very used to seeing next-gen games launch at inflated prices (before eventually settling back down to 'normal') compared to current-gen games, so this should keep them more grounded.

If you're ready to reserve some of the hottest Smart Delivery games, be sure to head on over to our price guides for the best Assassin's Creed Valhalla pre-orders and of course Cyberpunk 2077 pre-orders.

Brendan is GamesRadar's Managing Editor of the Hardware & eCommerce team. Formerly the Deals Editor at our sister site, TechRadar, he's obsessed with finding the best tech, games, gadgets, and hardware at the lowest price. He spends way too much of his free time trying to decide what new things to watch on Netflix, then just rewatches It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia instead.