Microsoft is ever-so-slowly lifting the lid on the Xbox Series X. Earlier today, we got a new round of bullet-pointed information -- again, less a confirmation of actual specs, and more a bunch of promises about what it'll be able to do. Still, things like hardware-accelerated raytracing and backward compatibility that stretches back to 2001 are alluring features.
Easy to overlook in the flurry of tech jargon is a new compatibility tool that Microsoft is calling Smart Delivery. This is essentially a way for games to determine whether you're playing on Xbox One or Xbox Series X, and run an appropriate version.
Here's why that's important. Microsoft's primary goal with the next generation of consoles is to blur the lines between machines. There won't be first-party Xbox Series X exclusives (for a while anyway); they'll be playable on Xbox One too. Similarly, Xbox One accessories will work with the Series X. Microsoft is approaching the Series X as simply another option to play Xbox games -- alongside Xbox One, PC, and mobile devices through Project xCloud.
So, anyone who's playing on Xbox One in a few years might not fare too well with a game that was designed with Series X in mind. The hardware just won't be able to keep up. That's where Smart Delivery comes in. It detects that you're playing on Xbox One, and it automatically reverts that game to the Xbox One version. If you also have a Series X in your home, it'll load that version when you're on your Series X. From Microsoft's description, it sounds seamless, automatic, and free. You buy the game once, and all the cross-gen functionality applies itself to give you the optimal version for the console you're playing on.
It works the other way too. Microsoft says that developers already have the tools to implement Smart Delivery -- it's just up to them as to whether they want to do it. So, games that launch before the Xbox Series X can functionally get a next-gen upgrade for free. That's what's going to happen with Cyberpunk 2077. CD Projekt Red has confirmed that it'll originally release on Xbox One, but when Series X launches, Smart Delivery will automatically give those players a new version with more bells and whistles.