Xbox Series X enhancement patches will upgrade current-gen games

Current gen games will get optional enhancement patches that leverage the full power of the next-gen Xbox Series X.

Published Feb 24, 2020 6:19 PM CST   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 11:44 AM CST
15 minute read time

All Xbox One games are playable on the Xbox Series X, but developers can roll out enhancement patches to upgrade current-gen games with next-gen performance.

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Today Microsoft confirmed two major Xbox Series X backward compatibility features we'd predicted for a while: The next-gen console will natively upscale and play all legacy compatible games better than ever, and devs can add new forward-compatibility patches that update current-gen games to harness the full power of the system's highly-synergized hardware.

Microsoft is careful to say developers have full control on whether or not their games get enhanced on Xbox Series X. Given the console's massive power leap and capability over the Xbox One, devs have incredible potential to breathe new life into their games.

This move is basically a next-gen version of the Xbox One X Enhanced patches that developers introduced since 2017. But the Xbox Series X enhancement scope is way beyond the Xbox One X's 4K HDR patches with their variable performance modes.

Developers can now tap the Xbox Series X's 12TFLOP RDNA 2-powered Navi GPU, 8-core Zen 2 CPU, super-fast SSD that can be used as system RAM, and a multitude of new SDK tricks including variable rate shading to dramatically boost frame rates, display tech variable refresh rate to tighten up display synchronicity, and ray tracing to add a new dimension of visual flair.

In short, developers will be able to revitalize existing games with all sorts of visual and performance wizardry and create a new kind of experience on the Xbox Series X.

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Read Also: Xbox Series X natively plays all Xbox games better

Similar to the Xbox One X, the Xbox Series X will come with a Smart Delivery system that automatically scales, downloads, and applies any enhancement updates or native performance optimizations to specific games.

"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," Microsoft said in the announcement post.

Microsoft also confirms that every first-party Xbox One game will get enhanced on the Xbox Series X with new Smart Delivery game upgrades. Again, this is not a new feature and is something Microsoft's been doing since the Xbox One X released in 2017.

"We're making the commitment to use Smart Delivery on all our exclusive Xbox Game Studios titles, including Halo Infinite, ensuring you only have to purchase a title once in order to play the best available version for whichever Xbox console they choose to play on.

"This technology is available for all developers and publishers, and they can choose to use it for titles that will be release on Xbox One first and come to the Xbox Series X later."

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Read Also: How publishers will approach current-gen on PS5, Xbox Series X

Right now developers have two major options for bringing current-gen games onto next-gen platforms like the Xbox Series X. They can re-release a next-gen exclusive SKU that only plays on the PS5 and Xbox SX, or they can roll out patches to upgrade older games to squeeze the full power of next-gen systems.

Devs and publishers could also do both (and they probably will).

The disparity between games that get enhancement patches and those that're built natively from the ground up for next-gen hardware remains to be seen. It's likely the latter--the games made specifically for next-gen--will play better than the upgraded versions.

Consumers on the other hand win tremendously from this development. Not only can they pop in four generations' worth of Xbox games into the Xbox Series X and play them, but all older-gen games will get an automatic performance boost on the system. And of course there's the nice added bonus of enhancement patches that alleviates the need to re-buy games consumers already own.

Speaking of which, CD Projekt RED just confirmed that Cyberpunk 2077's ownership will carry forward across generations. If you buy Cyberpunk 2077 on Xbox One, you'll also get a copy of it on Xbox Series X, if and when it releases.

Xbox Series X is due out by Holiday 2020. No pricing has been announced.

Check below for confirmed specs and details, and a huge content listing of everything we've heard about Xbox Series X so far:

Xbox Series X confirmed details (Formerly Project Scarlett):

  • 8-core, 16-thread Zen 2 CPU
  • Navi GPU on RDNA architecture
  • Highly customized 7nm SoC from AMD
  • GDDR6 memory
  • 2x Xbox One X's 6TFLOPs of GPU perf
  • 4x CPU power of Xbox One generation
  • Can deliver up to 40x more performance than Xbox One in specific use cases
  • Adaptive sync supported
  • Super-fast SSD that can be used as VRAM
  • Supports 8K resolution (likely media playback)
  • 120FPS gaming
  • Variable refresh rate (adaptive sync/FreeSync)
  • Variable Rate Shading
  • Raytracing confirmed with dedicated raytracing cores
  • Backward compatible with thousands of Xbox, Xbox 360, and Xbox One games
  • New controller with a dedicated share button
  • Compatible with Xbox One accessories

Lockhart (Unconfirmed lower-end Xbox Series hardware)

  • 1440p 60FPS
  • No disc drive
  • Super-fast SSD that can be used as VRAM
  • 7nm AMD SoC w/ scaled-down 8-core, 16 thread Zen 2 CPU at 3.5GHZ and Navi GPU
  • Lower GDDR6 memory pool (Possibly 12GB)
  • ~6-8 TFLOPs of power?
  • Aims to rival PS4 Pro/Replace Xbox One S
  • Full backward compatibility with all Xbox One games
  • Cheaper MSRP

Anaconda/Xbox Series X/Project Scarlett

  • 4K 60FPS
  • Disc drive with 4K UHD playback
  • Super-fast SSD that can be used as VRAM
  • 7nm AMD SoC with 8-core, 16 thread Zen 2 CPU at 3.5GHz and Navi GPU
  • 16GB GDDR6 RAM
  • 12 TFLOPs of power
  • 2x GPU power as Xbox One X/aims to replace Xbox One X
  • Full backward compatibility with all Xbox One games
  • More expensive MSRP

Xbox Series X coverage:

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Xbox One X 1TB Console - Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order Bundle (CYV-00411)

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Derek joined the TweakTown team in 2015 and has since reviewed and played 1000s of hours of new games. Derek is absorbed with the intersection of technology and gaming, and is always looking forward to new advancements. With over six years in games journalism under his belt, Derek aims to further engage the gaming sector while taking a peek under the tech that powers it. He hopes to one day explore the stars in No Man's Sky with the magic of VR.

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