Microsoft's Smart Delivery program for the Xbox Series X sounds great, doesn't it? You buy a game on whichever Xbox One you own, then you can upgrade it to the Xbox Series X version free of charge when you buy the new console.
It's a consumer-friendly initiative that has been praised by gamers and critics alike, but it only works under one condition: that games arrive on both Xbox Series X and Xbox One. Unfortunately, as The Verge points out, that might not be the case for several first-party games — and that's a problem for Xbox.
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Most of the games shown during Xbox's Games Showcase on Thursday may not come to the Xbox One, meaning your only chance of playing them is on next-gen hardware. This is contrary to what Xbox execs have been saying for several weeks: that you won't need next-gen hardware to play first-party next-gen games.
Microsoft hasn't confirmed this to be the case but some games revealed yesterday, including Forza, Motorsport, Fable, Avowed, As Dusk Falls, Everwild and State of Decay 3, were shown as arriving on Xbox Series X and Windows PC without any mention of Xbox One.
Before we criticize Microsoft too harshly, there are a few possible (and reasonable) explanations for what's going on here. The first is that these games won't be released within the next few years, and will, therefore, fall outside any promise of them arriving on Xbox One.
Microsoft execs previously said games released in the next "few" or "two" years would play on Xbox One and Series X. After that period, games aren't obliged to have an Xbox One version (we assume most people will have upgraded by that time).
However, if these games do arrive within the next few years, and they aren't available on Xbox One, then Microsoft could face some serious backlash. The company has implied, if not downright stated, that you wouldn't be forced to buy an Xbox Series X in order to play some of the most anticipated first-party games arriving in the next few years.
"You won’t be forced into the next generation. We want every Xbox player to play all the new games from Xbox Game Studios. That’s why Xbox Game Studios titles we release in the next couple of years—like Halo Infinite—will be available and play great on Xbox Series X and Xbox One. We won’t force you to upgrade to Xbox Series X at launch to play Xbox exclusives," Xbox lead Phil Spencer wrote in a blog post (opens in new tab) last week.
There is another possibility, and it would be the best-case scenario: Xbox simply chose not to list Xbox One during its Xbox Series X games showcase. Or that the omissions were made in error.
As much as we'd like to think these games are still coming to Xbox One, new evidence suggests they won't. As spotted by The Verge, the websites for Avowed and Everwild had included Xbox One before the games event, but any mention of the current-gen console was dropped after the event.
Whatever the real answer is to this conundrum, Microsoft hasn't done a particularly good job of clarifying the confusion.
The Verge reached out to Microsoft but got a vague response and direction toward a tweet that only complicated things further.
Future 1P titles are developed for Xbox Series X first. Not saying those games won’t ship on Xbox One, only that we are leading with Series X & each studio will decide what's best for their game/community when they launch.July 23, 2020
"Our future Xbox Game Studios titles are being developed natively for Xbox Series X," Microsoft wrote. "We will continue to invest in tools for devs to scale across consoles. Which consoles each Studio/game can support will be based on what’s best for their game and their community at launch.”
We'll update this article whenever Microsoft decides to properly clarify what's going on here. We hope these games will be available on Xbox One and Xbox Series X when they arrive. It would even be OK if they were more than 2 years away, after all, we'll be playing Halo Infinite until then.