The Control next-gen upgrade situation shouldn’t surprise anyone

People are already getting upset about the Control next-gen upgrade. As today’s announcement of the Control Ultimate Edition revealed, consoles gamers will only get a PS5 or Xbox Series X upgrade if they buy the Ultimate Edition. While the anger is understandable, I wonder if perhaps some gamers have forgotten just how good they have it today.

Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way: yes, the Control next-gen upgrade being limited to the Ultimate Edition only is a bad move from Remedy and 505 Games. The Twitter timeline for the game is currently a stream of complaints. Gamers on the Xbox One and PS4 subreddits aren’t happy, either, especially because it leaves out early adopters — you know, the people who made up all of your stellar sales.

This move probably generates more bad PR than any money that might potentially be lost, but I’m finding it incredible just how upset people are about something that they were never promised in the first place.

How game upgrades used to work

Control next-gen upgrade gunfight

Let’s start with a bit of history. Suppose that you bought a game on the PS3. The PS4 comes out years later and the developers announce that this PS3 game is being ported to the PS4. Do you know how free upgrades worked back then? They didn’t — there were no free upgrades. The upgrade plan was “buy it again.”

The same scheme generally has applied (and continues to apply) to remasters and HD editions. In my experience, only a small portion of games will give a discount or free upgrade to an HD edition or a new platform release to current owners; most of the time, you’re stuck buying it again.

Not all graphical upgrades are like this, mind. The current generation had a weird situation where “pro” consoles were launched, specifically the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X. Many games got free graphical upgrades, but this isn’t quite the same as the new generation of consoles we have coming out now.

In short, whether or not a game gets an upgrade for a new platform (and whether or not you get that upgrade for free as a customer) is a dice roll, every time. There has never been a standard and is there still isn’t one now. Free next-gen upgrades aren’t the norm when you look back at gaming’s history; it’s a very, very new thing.

Control next-gen upgrade PS5 red

Why is the Control next-gen upgrade limited to the Ultimate Edition?

The question nonetheless remains — why is there no free Control next-gen upgrade for current owners? I don’t have an answer, but I could probably field a guess: take a look at a list of some Xbox Smart Delivery titles announced last month:

  • The Ascent
  • Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
  • Call of the Sea
  • Chorus
  • Cyberpunk 2077
  • Destiny 2
  • DiRT 5
  • Gears 5
  • Halo Infinite
  • Metal: Hellslinger
  • Scarlet Nexus
  • Second Extinction
  • Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2
  • Yakuza: Like a Dragon

With rare exception, all of these games have been released in 2020 or are going to be released in the future. Control ain’t exactly new. The only game that comes remotely close to Control’s original release date is Gears 5.

It’s possible that there is some kind of behind-the-scenes cost for devs or a requirement for “newer” releases only from either Microsoft, Sony, or both that prevent a free Control next-gen upgrade from happening. It may also just be an intentional move by 505 or Remedy to encourage people to buy the Ultimate Edition.

Yes, Remedy and 505 should extend the Control next-gen upgrade offer to current console owners simply to avoid setting a bad precedent. That’s the right move to support the gamers who made your game a hit.

That aside, this upgrade program didn’t exist when Control game out. I’m genuinely in awe of people complaining about a freebie that they didn’t even know existed before today, were never promised when they first bought the game, and would have never have gotten in any previous next-gen transition.