Update [9:14 a.m. PT]: Electronic Arts has clarified how the next-gen upgrade will work for Madden NFL 21. Rather than supporting Xbox's Smart Delivery system, the new Madden will come with a next-gen upgrade that's still free but time limited.
Those who purchase Madden NFL 21 on Xbox One can upgrade to Series X at "no additional cost," but to do so, they must purchase Madden NFL 21 on Xbox One by December 31, 2020 and upgrade to the Series X version by March 31, 2021.
The original story follows:
We got a first look at the next generation of games for Xbox Series X today, and that includes what the next round of annual sports games will look like. Electronic Arts debuted a first look at Madden NFL 21, the next football game coming to next-gen consoles.
Superbowl-winning MVP Patrick Mahomes II of Kansas City Chiefs showed up on the Inside Xbox stream to debut some new footage of the next-gen football game. Noting how long the series has been running, the stream cut to a montage of Madden's past, leading up to the shiny new footage of the upcoming Madden NFL 21.
We didn't see too much gameplay, but it was confirmed that Madden NFL 21 will allow players to upgrade their current-gen version of the game. That means if you pick up a copy of Madden NFL 21 for Xbox One, you'll be able to play the Xbox Series X version as well, much like Cyberpunk 2077. Considering the next generation of consoles isn't set to launch until the holidays, that's pretty handy for football fans who don't want to wait.
EA launched a new site to check out more about the "next level" of the sports game. We can expect more info about the new Madden at this year's EA Play, which has gone fully digital and is set for June 11.
Electronic Arts is looking to expand its sports portfolio this year, with not just Madden, FIFA, and NHL on deck, but another mystery sports game on the way. As real-life sports leagues have had to close down and postpone their seasons due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, virtual sports have been the place many have turned to, with athletes competing in virtual leagues. American football and the NFL is still a ways off, so it's unclear what things could look like for the simulation side of Madden as the weeks roll on.