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Backward compatibility versus Smart Delivery: What’s the difference?

Xbox Series X Smart Delivery

One of the best features of Xbox Series X is both its backward compatibility and the new Smart Delivery system.

The two words are not interchangeable, though. They are similar in that they let you play games across generations, but they are distinct. Backward compatibility refers to the ability to play games from older hardware on a new system, which Xbox Series X supports.

Smart Delivery, meanwhile, is basically Microsoft’s marketing lingo for extending licensing across consoles. So if you buy a game on Xbox One and want to later play the Xbox Series X version after you upgrade systems, Smart Delivery allows you to do it.

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Why is the distinction important?

The Xbox Series X version may have enhancements and additions not found in the Xbox One version. Any new modes or other changes to the next-gen version will only be available through Smart Delivery. However, if you own the Xbox One version and Xbox Series X version of the game doesn’t support Smart Delivery, you’ll have to buy it.

If you play a backward-compatible game on Xbox Series X, it’s true that it does perform better. The graphics will look sharper, the load times faster, and the frame rate steadier, similar to how a game looks better on Xbox One X. Otherwise, it’s the same game as you’d find on Xbox One. It is not the next-gen version of the game.

What games support Smart Delivery?

Microsoft has committed to making all of its exclusive Xbox Game Studios titles optimized for Xbox Series X available via Smart Delivery. As for third-party games, it is leaving the decision up to individual developers and publishers.

Is it really free?

Yes, both backward compatibility and Smart Delivery are free for all Xbox Series X users. Again, though, the games that support Smart Delivery vary based on the publisher. Microsoft is committing its own first-party games, but some third-party publishers may not support it at all. And you’ll still need Xbox Live Gold or Game Pass Ultimate to play online multiplayer.

Click here for a full list of the games supporting Smart Delivery so far.