With Gears 5, Xbox Series X fixes a costly Last of Us problem
Microsoft is going where no console giant has gone before.
Gears 5 was one of the biggest titles for the Xbox One in much the same way that The Last of Us defined the end of the PlayStation 3's era. Rather than force players to buy a remastered version of Gears 5 — like Sony did with The Last of Us on PS4 — Microsoft has something so much better in mind for the Xbox Series X.
In a series of Xbox Wire blog posts published Monday, Microsoft offered an in-depth look at the next-gen console's hardware and specs, but the company also announced that there would be an "Xbox Series X Optimized version of Gears 5 available at Xbox Series X launch, which players will get free if they own the Xbox One version of Gears 5 and will leverage Smart Delivery depending on which console you’re using."
This will essentially give gamers who already own Gears 5 a free remastered version of the game, which is a first in gaming history. Microsoft had previously announced how Smart Delivery and backward compatibility would function in February, but Gears 5's inclusion in such a lineup is exciting news.
Previously, publishers would have re-release popular titles that were released towards at the end of a console’s lifecycle — like The Last of Us Remastered — and charge full price as if it were a totally new game. Microsoft adding Gears 5 to that lineup leverages one of the Series X’s most essential features in a way that eradicates this costly console gaming tradition.
Smart Delivery ensures that if Xbox One users bought a game on the console, and an upgrade version is available on the Xbox Series X, they’ll have immediate access to it at no additional cost. The company revealed that the upgrade Gears 5 will come with snappier load times, more detailed textures, and the possibility of running at 120 frames-per-second.
“Load times were extremely fast, and the team was able to turn on some features that, while previously implemented, had to be turned off for the Xbox One X version,” Microsoft wrote in a release. “[Gears 5 Technical Director] Mike Rayner also shared that the game is already running over 100 FPS and that the team is investigating implementing 120 FPS gameplay for multiplayer modes.”
This could spare a lot of gamers’ wallets considering how many remasters are typically released at the beginning of each console generation. Microsoft is clearly trying to foster a loyal base of console fans to transition to the Series X, which might be exactly what it needs to pull ahead of Sony since the PlayStation 5 has not announced a similar feature. This might save us money normally spent on games, but the console itself might wind up being expensive enough to make up for that difference.
Microsoft has yet to announce how much the Series X will cost, but the console is expected to hit shelves for about $500. Plus, gamers will need a screen that supports 4K resolution and is at least 120Hz if they want to enjoy all of the teased graphical improvements coming to Gears 5.
Monitors with those kinds of specs can cost $1,000 or more depending on size. The crucial spec here is the 120Hz refresh rate, which means the screen can redraw the entire image it’s displaying 120 times a second. Anything less won’t let the console run at 120fps, which has been a feature that Microsoft has long touted for the Series X.
This might only be an issue for gamers who currently play on the first model of the Xbox One, which doesn’t support 4K, and want to play the upgraded version of the game after they get the new console. The Series X will let players save money on games, but the peripherals necessary to run the remastered versions at their full potential won’t come cheap.
Either way, Microsoft has gone where no other console giant has gone before and established a new precedent that seems to put the consumer first rather than revenue. Smart Delivery has essentially already become a marquee feature for the next-gen console and it will continue to be one if it continues to render video game remasters free on the Series X.
To think that plenty of gamers spent the full price of $119.98 on both versions of The Last of Us on PlayStation consoles and others will have only spent $59.99 for two versions of Gears 6 when Xbox Series X comes out. Sony will have to follow suit just to keep up.