Aside from an enticing first look at Ubisoft’s next open-world epic, yesterday’s big Assassin’s Creed Valhalla reveal stood out for the ubiquitous presence of the Xbox name and logo in the marketing material and trailer.
PlayStation, on the other hand, was notably absent, apart from a passing mention of the game’s availability on PS4 and PS5 on the newly-minted Assassin’s Creed Valhalla website .
Among the heft of details was news that Assassin’s Creed Valhalla would leverage Xbox Smart Delivery technology . The next-gen feature aims to bridge the gap between the Xbox One and Xbox Series X .
Buying an Xbox One copy of a game will automatically grant a free upgrade to the Xbox Series X version. In other words, there’s no need for a second Series X copy, eliminating the need to buy multiple versions.
The technology is optional for developers. As such, availability will be on a per-game basis. But, we are already starting to see some of the biggest developers in the industry opt-in.
CD Projekt Red has already confirmed Smart Delivery for the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077, and Ubisoft followed suit with Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. Future Xbox Game Studios output, specifically in the form of expected Xbox Series X launch title, Halo: Infinite, will similarly support Smart Delivery .
The nod from Ubisoft and CD Projekt Red suggests that widespread adoption is – at least for high-profile AAA – a real possibility.
All this raises questions about whether Sony will produce a retort; the feature appears far too advantageous for Sony to forego the implementation of something similar.
Relative to Xbox’s open-book approach to the next-gen, we still know very little about the PlayStation 5. Mark Cerny’s architecture deep dive and a cursory look at the DualSense controller leaves a lot for Sony to reveal. Indeed, there’s a sense Sony still has plenty of surprises up its sleeve.
Whether a Smart Delivery-style feature is on the cards is unknown, but Sony would be giving up too much ground to Xbox if it isn’t. Adoption from developers suggests there’s an appetite for it too.
And, in terms of the financial implications of free cross-gen upgrades, developers and publishers would bear the brunt of any shortfall caused by players not double-dipping for both console generations.
Even then, the good favor garnered thanks to Smart Delivery’s intrinsically consumer-friendly functionality would mitigate the loss of revenue from cross-gen game sales.
The current global pandemic and the shortfall in consumer purchasing power will likely result in a slower migration to the next-gen consoles. Any measures designed to ease that transition will be met with open arms. Allowing players to know that their game purchases will carry over is likely to factor in the decision-making process when eyeing up the next-gen consoles.
Microsoft’s strategy to date – a more powerful console in terms of raw power, a pitch-perfect reveal pace, and Phil Spencer’s clear vision – mean the outcome of the next-gen head-to-head tussle between the two platform holders is blurrier than the previous generation.
In this drastically different landscape, we’ll likely see such features become pivotal in who comes out on top.
The pressure is now on Sony to deliver its take on Smart Delivery.