When Microsoft started slipping the made-up phrase “Smart Delivery” into all of its Xbox Series X/S marketing last year, it seemed like just another pair of empty buzzwords. Surely all games would just simply work after you installed them on your expensive new hardware, whether they supported Microsoft’s catchphrase or not. Not quite!
Nothing has put the gulf between standard operating procedure for next-gen games and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X/S Smart Delivery feature on display quite like Marvel’s Avengers. The loot RPG’s next-gen version went live yesterday and turned out to be a massive headache for those looking to upgrade from PS4 to PS5. First, they had to make sure both versions of the game were downloaded and updated on the console. Then they had to migrate their save data over. Hours and dozens of GB of data later, they could delete the PS4 version and finally get to playing.
Of course, all of this was made somewhat more complicated by how clumsy it can be to actually check which versions of a game you have downloaded on your PS5 and whether they’re updated. Marvel’s Avengers itself was also acting up, with the in-game option to migrate save data not appearing for some players. It took Crystal Dynamics several tweets and a dedicated FAQ on PlayStation’s website to explain the process, which was unintuitive enough to cause many people’s eyes to glaze over after reading the instructions. “Living in the future at Sony over here,” tweeted Forbes writer Paul Tassi.
On Xbox Series X/S, meanwhile, things just worked.
Microsoft describes Smart Delivery as a “new technology” that helps get you “the Xbox One and Xbox Series X versions of the game in one purchase, and the best version of the game will automatically be delivered to your console, regardless of generation—no extra steps required.” “What extra steps could possibly be required?” many of us wondered last year when this explanation was rolled out. So used to simply having our data cataloged and ferried about by major tech companies from one phone and computer to the next, the idea that your games and save data wouldn’t do the same when going from current consoles to new ones seemed absurd. This wasn’t Nintendo we were talking about, after all.
And yet time and again Smart Delivery has turned out to in fact be a real thing solving a real problem that otherwise plagues the transition to next-gen consoles. I now take for granted that I can turn on my Series S, browse the Microsoft Store, Game Pass, and my existing account library, and just play whatever within seconds, no questions asked. Then I go back to my PS5 and find I’m running out of space already because I have duplicate PS4 versions of several games downloaded. Also my Ghost of Tsushima save data didn’t carry over—time to boot the PS4 back up. Jesus Christ yes I’m sorry for unplugging you without warning last time.
What can I say, I figured it would be for the last time.