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Explaining Smart Delivery

Explaining what Smart Delivery is vs. Cross Play

There’s been some confusion as to what Xbox’s Smart Delivery is. Internet discourse is full of arguments with some claiming it’s just a “buzzword” for cross-buy or cross-gen games that just carry saves over. But Smart Delivery is actually more nuanced than that. To begin, we need to understand a simplified version of the backend of game store platforms.

Cross-buy games are usually their own separate executable or SKU on each platform. So for example, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla will have a PS4 version, a PS5 version, a PC version and an Xbox version. If you buy the game on PS4, you can get the PS5 executable free of charge. It’s a separate download, a different executable, with different assets, profiles, etc. Sometimes saves don’t carry over and it’s considered a whole new game. It’s why you are seeing some PS4 games with PS5 upgrades that don’t transfer saves over.

Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, supports Smart Delivery. Buy it once, own it on any Xbox or Windows 10 platform for good.

With Smart Delivery it’s a bit different. Smart Delivery is a tool for developers to use. It stores one game executable on the store, and automatically detects what hardware is downloading the game, and then sends the appropriate asset profile to the console along with the cloud saves. Using the same game as an example, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla would be one SKU on the Xbox store with 5 different profiles that will be pushed to whatever machine you download it from.

For example:

  • Xbox One Profile 
  • Xbox One X Profile 
  • Xbox Series S Profile 
  • Xbox Series X Profile 
  • Windows 10 Profile 

Doing this makes sure you don’t accidentally download the wrong assets for the version of the game you own and you are always playing the best and most optimized version of the game on the hardware you are using. You can’t accidentally play with lower quality assets on the Series X version because you forgot to download the 4k texture pack (a fake example) or vice versa. 

It’s a smarter way to future proof your purchases and takes away the angst of buying late gen games that you might hold out on because you know the next gen version is close. It also let’s you buy next gen games on current gen consoles so if you do upgrade down the line, you don’t need to worry about rebuying games or missing the grace period for upgrading your games (EA is letting gamers upgrade FIFA 21 and Madden 21 until the release of Madden 22 and FIFA 22, or approx. 1 year, Smart Delivery has no expiry).

While “Smart Delivery” may be the marketing term, the technology behind it makes it a very useful tool for developers and consumers. You buy the game once and that’s it. It combines delivering cloud saves, proper hardware profiles for games being delivered to the right machines, and forward compatibility in a seamless package that makes it hassle-free for consumers. It is the first official next-gen upgrade program that doesn’t charge an extra fee and allows any developer or publisher to use it. It puts cross-buy to shame.

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