We're heard a lot about Microsoft's push to ensure that Xbox players don't feel like they're being gouged when it comes to next gen games; its Smart Delivery program ensures that qualifying titles will be playable on both the Xbox One and the Xbox Series X.
Sony doesn't have anything as concrete in place with the PS5, and is very much leaving it up to developers. With the cost of next-gen games expected to rise by $10, if gamers want to transition to the next gen a few months or a year down the line, they'll potentially be stuck buying the same game twice. But apparently, Microsoft has put its foot down with developers on the issue.
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According to VGC's sources, Microsoft is strongly encouraging developers to offer their games across generations at no extra cost, ideally using its Smart Delivery program.
Some publishers are coming up with their own solutions, like EA's Dual Entitlement scheme for FIFA and Madden, which gives players a limited window of time to make good on the offer, or 2K's special, more pricey edition of NBA 2K21 that gives players both versions of the games, but has still made them pay for the extra copy - albeit with a discount, effectively.
These cross-gen bundles aren't as attractive as a free upgrade, but it's still a money-saver. In a statement on the matter, Microsoft said:
"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...
"At Xbox, the player is at the centre of everything we do, which is why we’re committed to supporting exclusive Xbox Game Studios titles, including ’Halo Infinite,’ with Smart Delivery, providing the best available version for whichever console you choose to play on.
“It will be up to individual developers to determine whether they implement Smart Delivery, and they can choose to use it for titles that will release on Xbox One first and come to Xbox Series X later."
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All first-party titles will support Smart Delivery, but Microsoft doesn't really have a say when it comes to third-party games. According to VGC, the latter category of games that don't offer Smart Delivery will be "treated separately within the Xbox ecosystem," with sources saying that they'll be limited to "only certain Xbox Live elements" like multiplayer.
Features like cross-gen save data will be reserved for those games that are part of the Smart Delivery program, and if a title doesn't offer support at launch for the scheme, it can't be retroactively added - although this doesn't go for games that will launch on current gen first, and get their next-gen release at a later time, like Cyberpunk 2077.
It's a good way to incentivise studios to get on board, by withholding certain, desirable features, that will ultimately benefit everyone in the long run. We'll have to see if Microsoft's gentle nudging pans out.