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Xbox Smart Delivery for Xbox Series X, Series S: Everything you need to know

Halo Infinite
Halo Infinite (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

Microsoft soon embarks on its next generation of consoles, with Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S dropping this November. The latest in AMD architectures helps bring sizeable performance boosts to gameplay, while a new solid-state storage setup promises drastic cuts to load times. It also couples that power with a new feature dubbed "Smart Delivery," which aims to streamline the shift into the next generation.

The philosophy of Smart Delivery is simple: buy your Xbox games once for versions on Xbox One, Xbox Series S, and Xbox Series X. With platform holders blurring the lines into the next hardware milestone, one license provides access on current devices, with a free upgrade to Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S versions.

Xbox Smart Delivery explained: Everything you need to know

Halo Infinite

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

While next-generation consoles traditionally result in harsh splits from former hardware, Microsoft is taking a reworked approach into 2020. The Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S further advocate cross-generation features, spearheaded by backward compatibility and an accompanying new technology dubbed "Smart Delivery."

Microsoft positions Smart Delivery as a solution to help players receive the best available versions of games, scaling from Xbox One to Xbox Series X. Titles that support Smart Delivery will provide free graphical upgrades on Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, without the requirement to buy a new version of the game. For example, that means if you buy Halo Infinite for Xbox One, an upgraded Xbox Series X or Series S version awaits for the upcoming Xbox flagship at no additional cost.

The one-time purchase eliminates the need to buy multiple versions of games across generations, as formerly seen with Xbox 360 and Xbox One. Microsoft will provide the option of Smart Delivery to all developers and publishers, although games aren't mandated to support the feature. But as the next Xbox console approaches, consumers can take comfort in knowing some games will automatically remain at the forefront when you decide to upgrade.

Buy games once, and play them on Xbox One AND Xbox Series X.

Smart Delivery expands on Microsoft's current Xbox One X philosophy, which saw some past titles upgraded with free visual enhancements. The 4K assets were automatically downloaded when an Xbox One X was detected, ensuring the best experience on the console. Smart Delivery brings the concept to a broader spectrum of devices, easing the transition for supported titles.

List of Xbox Smart Delivery games so far

Cyberpunk 2077 promo image

Source: CD Projekt RED (Image credit: Source: CD Projekt RED)

Smart Delivery is offered to developers as an optional addition to Xbox Series X and Series S titles, meaning that even with many of the best Xbox One games onboard, not all support the feature. Microsoft already pledged support for the upcoming Xbox Game Studios titles spanning Xbox One and Xbox Series, including Halo Infinite and Gears 5. Various third-party developers have also pledged support, boosted by the Xbox Series X games showcases in May and July.

Below follows the list of Xbox Smart Delivery games for Series X and Series S with confirmed plans to support the technology, once updates become available.

Various major third-party publishers have also committed to free next-generation upgrades throughout additional titles, although with further details still to come on the final implementation. Expect new Smart Delivery games to be announced during the months ahead, as Microsoft targets its November 10 launch for Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S.

What do Smart Delivery upgrades bring to Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S?

Assassins Creed Valhalla

Source: Ubisoft (Image credit: Source: Ubisoft)

Xbox One titles that support Smart Delivery will also be "Optimized" for Xbox Series X or Series S, flaunting Microsoft's tagline denoting games designed to leverage the console's hardware. These titles will pack bespoke upgrades when running on the next-generation console, with potential gains in visual fidelity and gameplay performance.

Xbox Series X upgrades can include 4K resolution, 120 FPS, and ray tracing.

While the possible changes for Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S are endless, the current lineup appears to focus on several fields on interest. Native 4K resolution will become increasingly common, following several titles on Xbox One X that fell below, or utilized visual trickery to achieve, the baseline. Some Xbox Series X and Series S releases have also committed to embracing 120Hz support, with improved framerates boosting fluidity.

The Xbox library also features other possible enhancements, including improved textures, high dynamic range (HDR) support, and ray tracing for more accurate lighting and shadows. The onboard solid-state drive (SSD) is also a secret weapon, slicing load times and improving asset streaming for more complex worlds.

However, Xbox Series X and Series S benefits will differ between upcoming games. For the latest on specific Xbox Series X upgrades, don't miss our list of Xbox Series X Optimized games with their confirmed resolutions and framerates.

How does Xbox Smart Delivery work?

Microsoft hasn't provided firm details on how Smart Delivery will exactly function, with Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S yet to hit the market. However, the promise of convenience suggests a smooth implementation, with a single disc or digital license automatically unlocking the correct version of the game, based on your console.

After purchasing an Xbox One title with Smart Delivery like Halo Infinite, players will presumably be able to download the game on Xbox Series consoles for free, or insert their disc, accessing the next-gen version. The system also works in reverse, if you use an Xbox Series X or Xbox Series S, and head back to Xbox One.

Does Xbox Smart Delivery support physical disc-based games?

Xbox One S

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Xbox Smart Delivery works with physical disc-based games on Xbox Series X. While previous cross-platform initiatives like Xbox Play Anywhere restricted access to virtual licenses, the benefits of Smart Delivery translate to traditional media, too.

The Xbox Series X ships with a 4K Blu-ray optical drive, enabling existing Xbox One discs to automatically upgrade via Smart Delivery when inserted. While Microsoft (and rivals in the space) continue to push toward the convenience of online distribution, the Xbox Series X hasn't embraced an exclusively all-digital future.

However, the Xbox Series S provides a disc-free experience, cutting the physical drive as an exclusively digital console. That means any existing disc-based Xbox One titles won't work with Xbox Series S and won't be upgraded. And because Microsoft doesn't currently provide an upgrade path from discs to digital licenses, those with physical copies must re-purchase the game digitally to play the next-generation version.

Does Xbox Smart Delivery support digital games?

Xbox New Microsoft Store

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

Xbox Smart Delivery supports digital titles, providing the most streamlined experience when moving to Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S. The feature automatically upgrades your Xbox One copy via Xbox Live, downloading the best version suited to your console. You hit play, with your Xbox handling the rest in the background.

That also allows the disc-less Xbox Series S to experience Smart Delivery. Your purchases from the Xbox One era translate, while purchases made on Xbox Series S will also be compatible with Xbox One consoles.

Does Xbox Smart Delivery also transfer game saves?

Titles that utilize Xbox Smart Delivery will also feature cross-generation saves, ensuring your progression moves between consoles via cloud storage. That allows Xbox One owners to start adventures on the existing console family, picking up where they left off with Xbox Series X or Xbox Series S.

While Xbox Smart Delivery helps enable multiple versions of games, they're still the same fundamental experience. Your game saves and earned Xbox Achievements will transcend generations, both forward and back, with a graphical boost to pair.

Do all free next-gen upgrades use Xbox Smart Delivery?

FIFA 21

Source: Electronic Arts (Image credit: Source: Electronic Arts)

Various third-party publishers have committed to free cross-generation upgrades, supporting the leap from Xbox One to Xbox Series X or Xbox Series S. Microsoft's Smart Delivery system is a standardized, hassle-free implementation, with dozens of titles already committing to free upgrades with no strings attached. However, some have also explored their own upgrade paths, introducing free upgrades outside of Smart Delivery. It gets a little confusing — but hold tight.

Electronic Arts, Activision, and 2K Games are among the first publishers establishing separate upgrade systems diverging from Microsoft's Smart Delivery. However, the implementation varies, with small discrepancies making the landscape a little more complex.

For example, with FIFA 21 and Madden NFL 21, Electronic Arts has cooked up an upgrade promotion dubbed "Dual Entitlement," where users manually claim their free upgrade before a set date. Games like NBA 2K21, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, and Control restrict their promotions to specific editions of the game, pushing users towards more expensive bundles. Upgrades differ on a case-by-case basis and may require some additional research.

Is Xbox Smart Delivery coming to PC?

While the Xbox ecosystem now extends far beyond Xbox consoles, Microsoft has not indicated Xbox Smart Delivery features will head to PC. Games on PC are often scalable by nature, allowing users to change resolution, framerate, and other graphical settings based on your hardware. It makes the concept of "Smart Delivery for PC" essentially irrelevant, highlighting the existing flexibility granted by PC titles.

Xbox Series X/S

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Matt Brown is a senior editor at Future for Windows Central. Following six years of professional consumer technology and gaming coverage, he’s focused on the world of Xbox and Windows PCs. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjbrown.

18 Comments
  • It's just another bonus for being on the Xbox ecosystem. That's what it is.
  • This is nice, but still gives devs the option to sell the game on two separate generations if they choose. I wish Microsoft had just abolished console generations and made the Series X like another more powerful One X. Microsoft could have dramatically changed the console dynamic by guaranteeing that each model will have at least 8 years of support and that a new more powerful version comes out every two years. After 8 years the oldest model drops support for not being able to run the new games (in this case the original Xbox One and One S), but the games could scale graphically over any supported hardware. And of course since it's all the same platform older games would still work for backwards compatibility. Basically the smartphone model but every two years.
  • You make a point, but I think Microsoft has learned a hard lesson in trying to dictate 3rd party developer support for their platform through their various Windows failures. Mandating that Ubisoft or EA make their games XPA or require a X1X 4K patch on all games would not go over so well with them. I'm sure telling them that they must provide the new version for free would also go the same way. While this is probably the way it should be, customers have to drive this, not the platform maker.
  • I'm not saying they have to mandate upgraded graphics, but they could just say: "This is a single platform, you can't sell two versions of the same game on it. You can choose whether to have static or scaleable settings, but we won't let you sell versions that only work on one version of the hardware."
  • Exactly, it should be no different than it is from the original Xbox one to the Xbox one x. Also how dumb is the new naming scheme? Now we have.... xbox one, Xbox one x, Xbox one series x. OMG.
  • It's completely consistent with this gen ... So I disagree with you. It's not dumb or difficult unless you don't try at all
  • I wouldn't call it dumb, but it is annoying, considering I abbreviated the One X, to X, I can't do that any more. And to compare current gen to previous gen is the Series compared to the One because you wouldn't differentiate between the S and X due to them running the same games. In other words, it makes "Series" the name of the console, so "Medium is coming out on the Series, not the One". The alternative would be to say "Medium is coming out on the Series X and Series S", but that's cumbersome. It's not the end of the world, but it is definitely messy for anyone who likes to abbreviate things.
  • I completely agree with this. I assumed that this would be the case. Now that I know it's not the case, I assume most developers will try and get consumers to pay twice. I for one won't be making any more purchases on Xbox until I know 100% that game will support the next generation.
  • According to Polygon, who say they reached out to Microsoft, physical discs will also be covered.
    m.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/www.polygon.com/platform/amp/2020/2/24/21150600/xbox-series-x-backward-c...
  • I suspect this to be picked up by third party publishers about as much as Play Anywhere was.
  • Yep. That's what I thought too.
  • This largely seems to be taking the concept we saw with One X and continuing with it. The only difference is that this isn't just updated hardware, it's a new generation. With the lines blurring between Xbox and PS (cross-platform MP becoming more common, the vast majority of 3rd party games coming to both platforms, etc.), this feels like a smart business move. If a customer already has Rainbow Six on Xbox, they have extra incentive for staying with Xbox for the next generation instead of jumping ship.
  • I'm a bit concerned that this isn't required and automatic for all games I purchased. I have a feeling most developers will get very greedy and cut off most games.
  • It's not a requirement, EA have already stated they will be offering their own timed upgrade period for Madden. Like I mentioned above, I expect this to be about as popular as Play Anywhere when it comes to third party support.
  • I don't understand why Control Ultimate Edition is not using Smart Delivery. Is it on disc only? The digital edition includes "Control Xbox Series X|S".
  • No one does, other than greed by Take 2.
  • Question: we know the download files vary by console, but does Smart Delivery also take into account the connected display? As in one version for Series X with a 4K TV but a different package for Series X on 1080p?
    It would help storage go further.
  • More than likely no, on the One X you couldn't choose to only play the regular game and not the One X enhanced version. It didn't matter if you were doing 1080p or 4 k on the display.