This cross-gen is a mess, and will continue to do so throughout 2022

This cross-gen is a mess, and will continue to do so throughout 2022

This cross-gen is a mess

The recent announcement of Sony's PS4 lifecycle extension due to PS5's persistent stock shortage implies that the generational transition limbo we find ourselves in will last even longer. Microsoft has instead halted the production of new Xbox One consoles, although in 2020 it stated that it would continue to support Xbox One with its first party titles for at least two years.

This makes the consolidation of the shaky bridges represented by both Sony and Microsoft cross-gen upgrades even more important, more than a year after the arrival of the PS5 and Xbox Series X / S on the market.

Watch on YouTube. In addition to the platform operators, third-party publishers are also still releasing games on both generations, and are likely to continue on this path for at least a year, in order to maximize profits by exploiting a large user base.

Last October, EA announced that owners of Battlefield 2042 last-gen standard edition would be able to upgrade the game to current-gen. This move was received quite positively.

It implied that gamers on PS4 and Xbox One would no longer have to spend at least € 99 on the 'Gold Edition' to enjoy the privilege of upgrading their copy to PS5 or Xbox Series in a future future. More importantly, it has decoupled users from the requirement of purchasing a digital version of the game to upgrade in the future.

So you might think that EA has learned its lesson and that with this policy it has made cross-gen upgrades as easy as possible. But it must be remembered that this is a lesson that the publisher had already learned about eight years ago, with the previous cross-generational period.

In 2013, owners of Battlefield 4 or FIFA 14 for PS3 or Xbox 360 could trade in their physical games and upgrade to their respective next-gen versions for just € 10. Similar offers were made available in several regions, with upgrades for just $ 9.99 in the US.

Players could simply go to their nearest retailer and trade in their physical PS3 / X360 copy for a PS4 / Xbox One copy. The most significant aspect of the upgrade program was its ease of use. There was no need to deal with the cumbersome dual-entity digital scheme that sometimes gives teething problems and doesn't work properly. But best of all, that upgrade program wasn't tied to your digital account, so you could just as well take the game to a friend's house or resell it if you weren't interested in the upgrade.

The current cross-generational period has been anything but simple. Publishers are definitely obsessed with channeling users to digital purchases and upgrades, which are however characterized by endless restrictions on product ownership and it is also impossible to resell a copy that is regularly purchased and owned.

Back to 2013 , but this time analyzing Activision's Call of Duty Ghosts release. Just like in Battlefield 4, owners of the PS3 and X360 versions of Ghists could give the physical versions back to participating retailers, but they could also upgrade digital copies for just € 10. Protect the consumer's choices!

In contrast to all of this, in this generation Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War players who wanted to upgrade their copy to PS5 or Xbox Series X / S have found limited but also convoluted options.

While owners of the digital versions had the option to upgrade at their respective stores, the upgrade of the disc version was only possible for PS4 users as long as they had decided to buy a PS5 Digital Edition, yes the console, not the game.

The answer? Activision was even magnanimous in marketing cross-gen bundles for both platforms in order to bypass the problems with physical copies, but only at a price.

Of course, players could simply choose not to upgrade their copy and make it work with the backwards compatibility program. No effort then, right? Too bad that the different editions differ in small but decisive aspects.

On Xbox, there is both an Xbox One edition and a simple Xbox version. The Xbox One edition of the game can be played on the Xbox One console. The version called Xbox contains both the Xbox One and the Xbox Series version.

Everything seems simple and functional until you look at the covers of the two editions by comparing them side by side. If you're not careful, you might think it's the same duplicate image.

Only one will give you access to the next-gen, choose carefully. Ever since Microsoft introduced Xbox Smart Delivery, the idea was that Xbox owners could confidently buy any Xbox cross-gen title, put the disc in the console, and the console itself would install the correct version automatically. This is a new way to stop the release of infinite SKUs of the same game in a period of generational transition. Unfortunately, however, external publishers had different plans.

As much of the gaming industry has decided to raise the price of the generations versions by $ 10 / € 10, different versions of these games have to be created, priced in different ways, depending on whether the game runs on last-gen or current-gen consoles. This only confuses consumers' ideas, as Microsoft continues to push on its Smart Delivery method, current-gen versions of Xbox titles will also feature last-gen versions. However, this possibility is not very clear by simply looking at the game packaging.

But we should also point out that these 'youth problems' of 2020 have not yet been solved. Call of Duty Vanguard, released in late 2021, had exactly the same problems.

However, it's not just third-party publishers that have made things complicated. Sony kicked off the next generation by promising that its cross-gen first party titles would offer dual entitlement, but not the delayed Horizon Forbidden West. After a heavy shower of criticism from the community, Sony has turned around and reintroduced dual entilement for PS4 pre-orders of Forbidden West.

This has led to a weird pricing positioning of the versions, as the PS4 version is cheaper by € 10 and also offers a free upgrade to PS5. As a PS5 owner, why should I pay € 10 more to get the same game in a white box? Maybe Sony is hoping consumers don't notice? This is where the Xbox single edition approach makes a lot more sense.

But the cross-generational reversibility of Forbidden West could be a separate case. God of War Ragnarok, another PlayStation first party title that was only labeled cross-gen at a later date, is not yet eligible for the free upgrade. There is still time for Sony to decide on this though, as the launch window is set for an unspecified 2022.

Finally, there are PS5 patches for older PS4 games that are sometimes offered with PS5 upgrades sold at full price. Let's take Ghost of Tsushima as an example. The game received a free PS5 patch that boosted the frame-rate to 60fps. But the title was then relaunched as "Director's Cut" for PS5, an edition that offers unreleased technical enhancements and new content regarding the story.

Basically, Sony lacks a consistent strategy for PS5 upgrades of PS4 games, because the one they adopt continues to be confusing.

Not all publishers have been so enigmatic in handling their upgrade process. Credit is to be given to Ubisoft, which has been offering free next-gen upgrades since the launch of the next generation. Assassin's Creed Valhalla, Watch Dogs: Legion, Rainbow Six Siege, and Far Cry 6 are just a few examples - all of these games offer free next-gen upgrades. What's even cooler is that these upgrades work wonders through Xbox Smart Delivery programs and the native PlayStation 5 program (despite a few snags). The point is that Ubisoft is able to offer straightforward, straightforward upgrades because it hasn't raised the price of next-gen versions of its games.

Microsoft's Smart Delivery system has been praised for making upgrades simple. If you want to buy a physical copy of Halo Infinite, simply buy the standard edition which contains both Xbox One and Xbox Series versions. In addition, Microsoft has updated the game packaging making it clearer for shoppers.

Master Chief is ready to go into action through Smart Delivery. Looking ahead, Elden Ring also uses Smart Delivery, so it will be user friendly. On the PlayStation it will instead be offered in two editions, one for each generation, although the PS4 copies can be digitally upgraded at no cost. The positive thing is that the two editions will have the same price, so consumers will be able to choose the one that suits their console with confidence.

This cross-generational period has been a mess we didn't need. Even if the desire to turn us towards digital must be taken into account, both Microsoft and Sony could have made this period much easier. Microsoft could have done more to encourage external publishers to use the Smart Delivery program, while Sony could have simplified its editions by offering a single cross-gen package like Xbox did.

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On PC, you pay lower prices for the same game that can run technically as on a last-gen console or increase the technical level based on hardware equaling or surpassing the level of the new consoles, all without paying an extra cent. When games receive upgrades or remasters, PC users expect free upgrades. In fact, most of the time, these upgrades automatically appear in the Steam library of those who already own the game in question. So why should console users be harassed in this way, or forced to search for different versions of the same game to find the right one?

Part of the answer is that games are becoming more and more expensive to develop. And while it's true that there are plenty of indie games produced on paltry budgets, triple-A publishers try to differentiate themselves with ambitious, large-scale projects. Add to this models of live services where publishers are constantly pressed to release free content that makes games come alive and in sight, and perhaps the price becomes partially justifiable, even if everything is downright complicated.

Nel Meanwhile, the cross-generational mess will continue into 2022 as large-scale fragmentation continues to divide the community due to chip shortages and scaling issues associated with the distribution of new batches of next-generation consoles. All this confusion just creates another barrier for players switching to PS5 or Xbox Series X, if they can find any available.

Microsoft, EA and Activision have replied a no comment to this article, while Sony has not even replied.

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