Assassin’s Creed Valhalla — the new viking-based iteration of the popular franchise — will support Microsoft’s upcoming Smart Delivery program for cross-generation games between the Xbox Series X and Xbox One, in one of the most encouraging signs of cross-generation gaming yet for the upcoming console.
Smart Delivery is what Microsoft calls its free upgrade program for the Xbox Series X that automatically upgrades owners who own the Xbox One version of the game to the Xbox Series X version for free. (It also works the other way — buy the Xbox Series X version, and you’ll get the Xbox One version.) Effectively, it means that players will only ever need to buy a Smart Delivery game once, instead of buying separate copies to be able to play it on both consoles.
Fans won’t have to wait long to see Valhalla in action on the Xbox Series X, either — Microsoft will be showing it off on May 7th in its gameplay reveal showcase for its upcoming console, along with other titles.
While Valhalla isn’t the first game to support Smart Delivery — Microsoft has already pledged that all its first-party Xbox Game Studios games that support both consoles will get the feature, and CD Projekt Red has promised that the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 will get the free upgrade, too — Ubisoft’s support for the feature marks the biggest third-party developer to jump on board.
That’s a very encouraging thing to see because Smart Delivery is optional: developers can give players the free upgrade, but they don’t have to. There’s a world in which Ubisoft could have forced players to buy separate Xbox One and Xbox Series X versions of Valhalla, like we saw years ago with the cross-generation release of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag on the Xbox One and Xbox 360.
For now, though, the free upgrade is just for Xbox One / Xbox Series X. Sony hasn’t said that it’ll be offering free upgrades for cross-generation PlayStation 4 games to an enhanced PlayStation 5 version at this time.
That could change, especially as more information about the upcoming consoles gets revealed, of course. But Sony could choose to keep the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 versions of cross-generation games like Valhalla or Cyberpunk separate, if it wants. And that could force players to choose between a graphically worse PlayStation 4 version that’s future-proof or a PlayStation 5 version — with unknown benefits in graphics or gameplay, especially in these early days when the differences on cross-generation titles will be slimmer — that won’t work on older hardware.
It’s likely a problem that won’t be relevant for too long. If past console generations are any indication, developers will eventually start shifting toward exclusively making games for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X sooner rather than later. But it’s a problem that Microsoft is smartly avoiding by simply giving players the best experience for a given game no matter which console they own, instead of trying to squeak out a few more sales from having two copies of it.
But hopefully, now that Ubisoft and CD Projekt Red have gotten on board, other major developers — and perhaps even Sony — will continue to follow suit with free cross-generation upgrades, too.