What, Exactly, Is Xbox's New "Smart Delivery"? Microsoft Explains

Phil Spencer_Headshot_color- Microsoft Publicity-H 2019
Courtesy of Microsoft

Phil Spencer, Head of Xbox

The new offering, which will allow gamers to "buy a game once" and play it across both the current-generation console, Xbox One, and the upcoming next-gen Xbox Series X, was met with excitement (and questions) from fans. The tech company answers a few for THR.

On Monday morning, Phil Spencer, head of Xbox at Microsoft, detailed technical specifics of the company's upcoming next-generation console, Xbox Series X, in a blog post

Along with a number of impressive-sounding, tech-savvy console points (12 teraflops of graphics processing power, accelerated ray tracing for enhanced visuals, expanded SSD storage), Spencer also highlighted a new offering called "Smart Delivery."

"This technology empowers you to buy a game once and know that — whether you are playing it on Xbox One or Xbox Series X — you are getting the right version of that game on whatever Xbox you’re playing on," writes Spencer.

The announcement excited many fans, as it essentially promised that Xbox titles purchased on the current console generation (Xbox One) would also be redeemable, for no extra charge, on the next-gen Series X. The excitement was aided by a tweet from the official account of Cyberpunk 2077, one of 2020's most-anticipated games, that voiced support for the new concept and promised the title would utilize Smart Delivery: "Gamers should never be forced to purchase the same game twice or pay for upgrades. Owners of #Cyberpunk2077 for Xbox One will receive the Xbox Series X upgrade for free when available."

Still, some questions remained, such as which titles would work with the new Smart Delivery system — particularly third-party games on the console. 

The Hollywood Reporter contacted Microsoft for some clarification on Smart Delivery. 

“We’re making the commitment to use Smart Delivery on all our exclusive Xbox Game Studios titles, including Halo Infinite," a Microsoft spokesperson tells THR. Halo Infinite, the latest entry in the long-running shooter franchise, is set to debut as a launch title on the Xbox Series X this holiday.

"Outside of our Xbox Game Studios titles, it will be up to individual developers to determine whether they implement Smart Delivery,” the spokesperson continues.

Does the news imply that all upcoming games slated for launch on the Series X will also simultaneously release on Xbox One? “Right now, for Xbox Series X, our focus is on supporting developers to help make their creative visions come to life with new innovations from our next-generation hardware. We have nothing further to share at this time," says the spokesperson.

As for how long Smart Delivery — also referred to as "cross-buy" — will be supported, Microsoft is similarly vague: ”We’re excited to introduce Smart Delivery with Xbox Series X to ensure you always play the best version of the games you own for your console, across generations. We look forward to sharing more specifics in the future.”

However, Spencer's blog post does promise extensive backward compatibility on the Series X across Microsoft's "four generations" of consoles (Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One and the upcoming Series X). 

"Our commitment to compatibility means existing Xbox One games, including backward-compatible Xbox 360 and original Xbox games, look and play better than ever before," writes Spencer.

Microsoft will unveil more information about the upcoming console at this year's E3, held at the Los Angeles Convention Center in June.