Xbox Series X just detailed its best weapon against PS5

Halo Infinite Xbox Series X
(Image credit: 343 Industries)

One of the Xbox Series X features that sets it apart from the PS5 is Smart Delivery. The idea is that if you buy a game on the Xbox One, you’ll also get a copy for the Xbox Series X. As it turns out, though, Smart Delivery is more than just a free upgrade; it’s also a way to maintain save data among multiple versions of a game, and also works with backwards compatible titles.

Information comes from an Xbox Wire blog post entitled “Xbox Series X: Buy a Game Once and Play the Best Version Across Generations with Smart Delivery.” That’s a mouthful, but it does get the point across. The blog describes three possible Smart Delivery scenarios, each one of which tells us something about how the functionality will work in practice.

In the first, a players is in the middle of Gears 5 on the Xbox One. They buy an Xbox Series X later this year. As soon as they set up the Xbox Series X, they can download a version of Gears 5 that’s optimized for the new console, and pick up right where they left off. This is pretty much how Microsoft has described Smart Delivery up until now, but apparently, it’s not the only way that the system will work.

The second scenario is potentially more interesting, particularly if you’re not planning to get rid of your Xbox One as soon as the Xbox Series X comes out. In this situation, a player buys a copy of Halo Infinite for the Xbox Series X. The Xbox Series X occupies a place of honor in the living room, and downloads an optimized version of Halo Infinite. But the player can continue their Halo Infinite game on an Xbox One, perhaps relegated to a bedroom, which will “know” to download the Xbox One-optimized version of the title.

In the final scenario, a player buys a third-party game, such as Cyberpunk 2077, before the Xbox Series X launches. When the Xbox Series X launches, there may not be an optimized version of the game ready. However, the Xbox Series X is backwards compatible with all Xbox One games, so the player can simply download the Xbox One version onto the Series X and continue playing. When the Xbox Series X version becomes available, the upgrade will happen automatically.

None of these features costs extra money, and save data always carries over. Microsoft also provided a list of confirmed titles with Smart Delivery features:

  • Halo Infinite
  • Cyberpunk 2077 
  • Assassin’s Creed Valhalla 
  • Destiny 2 
  • DiRT 5 
  • Scarlet Nexus 
  • Chorus 
  • Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 
  • Yakuza: Like a Dragon 
  • The Ascent 
  • Call of the Sea 
  • Gears 5 
  • Second Extinction 
  • Metal: Hellslinger

Microsoft’s clarity around Smart Delivery has consistently been a potential advantage of the Xbox Series X over the PS5. Sony’s next console may have some kind of free upgrade for cross-generation games, but it may also keep the two separated. We also don’t know whether save data will be cross-compatible. Now that Microsoft has revealed more Smart Delivery details, hopefully Sony will follow suit with its own plans.

Marshall Honorof

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.