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PS5 and Xbox Series X Upgrades Have Become a Land of Confusion

THIS WEEK IN BUSINESS | Backward compatibility was nice and simple, then Microsoft had to go and do something people would like.

This article first appeared on USgamer, a partner publication of VG247. Some content, such as this article, has been migrated to VG247 for posterity after USgamer's closure - but it has not been edited or further vetted by the VG247 team.

This Week in Business is a collection of stats and quotes from our sister site that sheds light on console sales, new trends, and more. Check back every Friday for a new entry!

Seven years ago, Microsoft's Xbox head Don Mattrick dismissed a question about the decision to skip backward compatibility for the then-upcoming Xbox One, saying, "If you're backwards compatible, you're really backwards."

The Xbox One struggled and just about everything from the run-up to the console's launch was bundled together in an industry cautionary tale.

A generation later, Sony and Microsoft have been very quick to let gamers know their new systems would play their old system's games. For all the other questions surrounding them, we've known the PlayStation 5 and Xbox One X will be backward compatible for well over a year.

That's fine. That's good. It's straight forward and simple, right? Old games will work on the next systems.

And then in February, Microsoft went and announced Smart Delivery.

QUOTE | "This technology empowers you to buy a game once and know that—whether you are playing it on Xbox One or Xbox Series X—you are getting the right version of that game on whatever Xbox you're playing on."- Current Xbox head Phil Spencer, announcing a pretty cool feature for Xbox gamers and taking a crowbar to any chance of things being "simple."

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The thing is, Smart Delivery was only guaranteed for Microsoft's own Xbox titles. Third-party publishers were instead given the option of using Smart Delivery if they wanted to, particularly for games that launched on last-gen platforms before the next-gen versions arrived. Oh, and Microsoft is also allowing publishers to come up with their own variations on Smart Delivery, like EA's Dual Entitlements program.

The idea was to give Xbox an edge on Sony, which doesn't have a Smart Delivery equivalent. But Sony isn't preventing publishers from functionally replicating the program on PS5, and that causes some problems.

Take Madden NFL 21 for example. Customers who buy a physical PS4 copy of the game can upgrade to the digital PS5 version, but the publisher has said they will need to keep the original PS4 game's disc and have it in the drive in order to play the downloaded PS5 edition. That might not seem like a big deal, but the PS5 is coming out in two versions, one of which doesn't have a disc drive at all.

At least EA isn't making people pay for their next-gen upgrade, perhaps because Microsoft has been discouraging publishers and developers from charging extra for Xbox Series X upgrades whether or not they're going through Smart Delivery.

However, it appears some publishers were banking on this new generation giving them the opportunity to tack on another $10 to the standard selling price of games. The $60 price point has been the standard since the Xbox 360 launched in 2005, and Take-Two and Activision are among those looking to move that to $70 this time around.

But they aren't about to let people skip the next-gen task by buying the last-gen version of a game and using Smart Delivery, so Take-Two and Activision have instead announced pricier limited edition versions of their last-gen Call of Duty and NBA 2K games that include access to the next-gen versions when they come out. In Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War 's case, it's a $70 cross-gen edition of the game; In NBA 2K21, a $100 Mamba Forever package will get you both versions.

It gets better (worse), though. Because for Call of Duty, people who buy the physical PS4 version of the game instead of the cross-gen bundle and later decide to upgrade will be able to do so for a fee (assuming they have the disc drive-equipped PS5 and the PS4 disc in the drive the whole time). But those who buy the Xbox One physical version will have no such ability to upgrade to the Xbox Series X version.

Simple, right?

I miss when next-gen questions could be answered like this:

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QUOTE | "Every avenue we pursued, there was some form of blocker and those blockers meant that at least one group of players ended up being left out of the upgrade for various reasons. As of today, we can't offer an upgrade to everyone, and leaving any one group out feels unfair." - 505 Games giving a clear-as-mud explanation for why it is only offering a free next-gen upgrade for people who buy the last-gen version of Control Ultimate Edition, even if they have bought the original game and DLC that comprise the Ultimate Edition.

QUOTE | "There will be a limited quantity of PS5 consoles available for pre-order, so we will be inviting some of our existing consumers to be one of the first to pre-order one from PlayStation." - Sony is asking customers to sign up to potentially be allowed to preorder a thing for an as-yet unknown amount of money.

QUOTE | "Actually, it's quite difficult for gender minorities because there's this idea that you have to be open, to talk a lot. You have to answer every question. It makes sense. It's logical, but you do have to show pedagogy and to be patient. And you have to debate if you're gendered sometimes, if your own identity is supposed to exist or not. Or if it's ok for you to be here. I don't want to debate about that. I'm here." - Big Bad Wolf writer Pierrick Haëm talks about the difficulty of working at Ubisoft during the company's Pride week celebration in a Devcom session about whether corporate celebrations of LGBTQ people can be beneficial.

QUOTE | "Our initial success proves there's a gap in the marketplace between the niche coverage of endemic gaming sites and the lip service paid to gaming by mainstream publications. Wired's fresh approach reaches an untapped, highly engaged gaming audience, allowing us to partner with clients trying to reach them in all-new ways." - said Eric Gillin, chief business officer of The Culture Division at Wired parent Condé Nast, talks about the tech site's new gaming section as if it didn't have a Game|Life section for a dozen years that it shut down in 2017 and as if it hadn't just let its full-time gaming writer go a few months ago.

QUOTE | "Some of the time, people have negative experiences on Steam due to their encounters with, in the worst case, bad actors, or simply with others whose tolerance for various forms of language differ from their own. A playful match can quickly turn to a heated competition full of emotion and expression, some of which crosses a line. But where is that line? We've found the answer is different for everyone." - Steam explains why 17 years after it first launched, the PC gaming storefront and service is only now rolling out a beta test of profanity filter

QUOTE | "[This change] may render Audience Network so ineffective on iOS 14 that it may not make sense to offer it on iOS 14 in the future." - Facebook says an Apple iOS update that will require users to opt-in to be tracked for advertising could hamstring its ad network business on the platforms.

QUOTE | "Apple has chosen to act severely, and by doing so, has impacted non-parties, and a third-party developer ecosystem. In this regard, the equities do weigh against Apple." - US District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers rules partly in Epic's favor, granting a temporary restraining order preventing the iPhone maker from cutting off the Unreal Engine maker's access to its iOS and Mac developer accounts. However, the judge expressed skepticism about Epic's antitrust claims in the case.

STAT | $541.8 million - The total revenue brought in by Unity in 2019, which we learned as part of the company's filing for an IPO. Unity estimates its technology was used in more than half the mobile, PC, and console games made last year. It has lost money every quarter since its inception in 2004.

STAT | $447.5 million - The total revenue peripheral maker Razer reported for just the first six months of 2020.

QUOTE | "Almost every employee had a story where Mike abused his position of power to put his coworkers in uncomfortable stressful situations for years, which include: frequently mentioning his genitals, forcing unwanted physical contact, making sexual comments about himself or about employee's bodies, insulting coworkers privately or in front of other coworkers, or using very personal details to threaten or demean coworkers when they didn't go along with what he wanted or act in a way he wished." - Now former Lab Zero senior animator Jonathan Kim explains why a number of the Skullgirls and Indivisible studio's employees resigned recently rather than continue working for Lab Zero lead designer Mike Zaimont.

QUOTE | "We all play something and go 'aaah, that was awesome' and in a hop, skip and a jump we're off to PornHub and the moment is forgotten about." - Successful game developer advice columns are often accused of projecting one person's experience into some kind of universal truth, but Dan Marshall took it to another level in his post about harnessing the power of positive reviews.

QUOTE | "People had this idea, wanted to make a game, we made the game and it was really well-received. It sold, I don't know, a couple million units. And that basically let us break even. Then they greenlit a sequel. And the idea was that we were going to put out a sequel that needed to sell [however many] million before it started making money. It didn't.

"So then they were like, 'Let's do a third game.' And then you have marketing going, 'You have to make a co-op game because co-op Gears of War is selling and you guys are a third-person shooter and we can start getting these Gears of War fans.' So it went from this idea of being an engineer in space and it's a horror game, and it turned into trying to make a game by a formula." - Ex-Visceral Games developer and The Wandering Band co-founder Zach Mumbach talks about Dead Space's journey from acclaimed original IP to defunct franchise.

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