PS5/Xbox Series X Game Upgrades — Here's What We Know So Far

Upgrading your PS4 and Xbox One games to their PS5 and Xbox Series X games is confusing, but here is what we know so far about the process.

September 11, 2020

With the PS5 and Xbox Series X on the horizon, one of the biggest topics on the mind for those looking to jump into next-gen is how upgrades from current generation titles will work. Given that we’ll see a lot of titles coming this fall that will be between generations like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Call of Duty: Black Ops – Cold War, and more, naturally many current-gen owners will want to look into which games will support upgrades to a next-gen console version.

To say the least, the current-gen to next-gen upgrade process for PS5 and Xbox Series X games has been a bit confusing. Generally, there’s no “firm” process for giving owners of a current-gen game an upgrade to the next-gen version as it depends on the publisher or studio releasing the title. However, below you’ll find what we know so far about next-gen game upgrades (so far) and how they’ll work on both platforms.

How Do Upgrades Work on Xbox Series X?

In terms of game compatibility across platforms, Microsoft has perhaps made this one of its biggest selling points moving into next-gen with its “Smart Delivery” feature. From its original announcement, Smart Delivery is a new feature that will ensure that whether you’re playing on Xbox One, Xbox Series X, or PC, you will be getting the best, most fully optimized version of the game for the specific platform that you are playing on, whether you are playing a physical or digital version of a title.

Primarily, the feature gives peace of mind that no matter what system you’re playing on, the games you will be playing will take full advantage of whatever hardware that you are playing on, such as upcoming current-gen titles that will have Series X optimizations in the future, like Cyberpunk 2077. Additionally, the feature will also work with backwards compatible titles; if you’re playing Gears 5 now on an Xbox One and get a Series X down the line, you’ll automatically be able to jump into the Series X version of the game at no additional cost. Microsoft has also committed that aside from encouraging third-party studios to use the feature, it will ensure that all Xbox Game Studios exclusives that are optimized for the Xbox Series X will support Smart Delivery.

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How Do Upgrades Work on PS5?

Compared to Microsoft and its Smart Delivery feature on Xbox Series X, there isn’t a unified feature with Sony’s PS5 in terms of game compatibility and upgrades. However, the majority of upcoming titles that will release for both current-gen and next-gen platforms will be able to be upgraded for the PS5. Previously, Sony confirmed that the PS5 will also feature backward compatibility with PS4 titles, and at launch, the system will support compatibility with around 100 of the most popular PS4 titles. It’s also been reported that backward compatibility will expand to “the vast majority” of the PS4’s library, but it’s unlikely to expand to Sony’s earlier legacy systems.

Earlier in the year, Sony detailed that after July 13, 2020, all new PS4 games submitted for certification must offer compatibility with the PS5, ensuring that future games purchase on PS4 will be playable on Sony’s next-gen system. So aside from backward compatible PS4 titles, it’s likely that we’ll continue to see new PS4 games also make their way over to the PS5.

Free Upgrades for Physical/Digital Games

By and large, most publishers are offering free current-gen game upgrades to their respective next-gen platforms; if you purchase a PS4 or Xbox One game now, you’ll be able to upgrade to play that game on PS5 or Xbox Series X for free. A few publishers, such as Ubisoft and Bethesda, have committed to making their upcoming titles available as free upgrades for the next-gen consoles for those that purchase their current-gen versions.

Here are some of the games so far that have been confirmed to support free upgrades to PS5/Xbox Series X for both physical and digital titles:

  • Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
  • Cyberpunk 2077
  • Dead By Daylight
  • Destiny 2
  • Dirt 5
  • DOOM Eternal
  • The Elder Scrolls Online
  • Far Cry 6
  • FIFA 21
  • Fortnite
  • Halo Infinite
  • Kena: Bridge of Spirits
  • The Legend of Heroes: Hajimari no Kiseki
  • Madden NFL 21
  • Marvel’s Avengers
  • Rainbow Six Siege
  • Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2
  • Watch Dogs: Legion
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
  • Yakuza: Like a Dragon

Notably, there are a few titles that have specific windows for when you can upgrade to the PS5/Xbox Series X versions for free. Madden NFL 21 and FIFA 21, for example, will allow you to upgrade to the next-gen iterations for free until the release of the series’ next installments in 2021, Madden NFL 22 and FIFA 22.

An additional factor worth noting for these upgrades is that if you have physical games that you’re looking to play on next-gen consoles, you’ll need to make sure that you have a next-gen console that can play physical game copies. For example, if you purchase a physical copy of a PS4 game, you’ll want to make sure to get the standard PS5 console with a disc drive to play it, and not the Digital Edition. You’ll likely need the original disc in order to verify that you own the game, which won’t be possible if you end up getting the PS5 Digital Edition sans disc drive. However, if you own a digital copy of the game, it will transition over to the new system seamlessly.

Free Upgrades Only for Digital Games

While upgrades are mostly being supported for both physical and digital PS4/Xbox One titles, the main exception to the rule so far has been that some titles are only supporting upgrades for digital copies of games over physical releases.

The most notable example of this so far has been Hitman 3, which will offer a free upgrade to the PS5/Xbox Series X, but only for those that purchase the game digitally on either PS4 or Xbox One, leaving out those that decide to purchase a physical copy. Hitman 3 will be coming in January 2021 after the launch of both consoles, so if you’re looking to pick up a physical copy of the game, you can also just opt to pick up the physical PS5 or Xbox Series X version of the game.

Though Hitman 3 is one of the few examples of this current-gen to next-gen upgrade path, it’s likely that we’ll see a few other titles take up this model, especially with the release of both the PS5 Digital Edition and the Xbox Series S as entirely digital next-gen consoles.

Paid Upgrades

A few titles coming to both current-gen and next-gen consoles are adopting a different model by offering paid upgrades for their PS5 and Xbox Series X versions. Specifically, NBA 2K21 and Call of Duty: Black Ops – Cold War are two of the most notable titles that will only offer next-gen upgrades with a premium fee.

For NBA 2K21, you’ll be able to upgrade to the PS5/Xbox Series X versions of the game only by purchasing the Mamba Forever Edition, which retails for $99.99 and offers an entitlement for PS4/Xbox One owners towards the next-gen standard version for free. If you don’t want to go down that route, you’ll have to pick up the PS5 or Xbox Series X version when it releases later this year at $69.99, which will be $10 more than the cost of the current-gen versions.

Call of Duty: Black Ops – Cold War in particular has a bit of a confusing next-gen upgrade path. Rather than offering a free upgrade, Activision will be releasing a digital cross-gen bundle for Cold War at $69.99 that provides a next-gen upgrade for the PS5/Xbox Series X versions of the game.

If you go down the physical route, the physical PS4 version of Cold War can be upgraded for an additional $10 to the PS5 version, but you’ll still need to have the physical PS4 disc in order to play it on a PS5 with a disc drive, not the Digital Edition. For Xbox owners, it’s even a bit more confusing. If you purchase the physical Xbox Series X version of the game (which is $69.99), you’ll be able to play it on both the Series X and Xbox One. However, if you purchase the standard Xbox One version of the game (which is $59.99), you won’t be able to upgrade your copy of the game to play on Xbox Series X.

While not entirely a paid next-gen upgrade, one of the other notable examples in this sense is Control: Ultimate Edition, the recent re-release of Remedy’s action title that will also be coming to PS5 and Xbox Series X. The Ultimate Edition not only includes the base game and all of its DLC, but also provides those that purchase it on PS4 or Xbox One with the ability to upgrade to the PS5 and Xbox Series X versions for free. However, this won’t apply to those that purchased the original version of Control last year on PS4 or Xbox One, meaning that you would need to purchase the Ultimate Edition for $40 to be able to play the next-gen optimized version of the title.

With the new consoles only a few months away, there are still some unanswered questions surrounding next-gen game upgrades for the PS5 and Xbox Series X. But, at the moment, this is the clearest picture we have of how you can play upcoming games on the next-gen consoles. It’s all a bit confusing, but for the most part, this should give you a better idea of where and how you’ll be able to play some of the most anticipated games of the year in the transition between console cycles.

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Ryan Meitzler

Ryan is the Editor-in-Chief at DualShockers and has been a lover of games as long as he can remember. He holds a BA in English and Cinema and lives in New York City.

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