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Do I Get a Free Upgrade to Skyrim Special Edition?

The short answer is yes, if you already own Skyrim Special Edition on PS4, Xbox One, or PC, you can upgrade to an enhanced version on PS5 and Xbox Series X/S for free. This gives you better graphics and performance at no additional cost. But read on for all the details!

What Does the Free Next-Gen Upgrade Include?

Friend, as a fellow gaming enthusiast, I‘m excited to share that the free next-gen upgrade gives you Skyrim Special Edition optimized for PS5 and Xbox Series X/S! Here‘s what you get:

  • Higher resolution – Gorgeous 4K graphics at 60 FPS
  • Enhanced lighting – Volumetric god rays and enhanced water shaders for more realistic lighting
  • Faster loading – Near instant loading to keep you immersed in the game
  • Mod support – Existing mods transfer over so you don‘t lose anything
  • Backwards compatibility – PS4 and Xbox One saves transfer over too

So in summary, you get Skyrim looking and running better than ever before, while keeping your progress intact. As you can imagine, exploring Tamriel in 4K at 60 FPS is pretty breathtaking.

Just How Much Better Does Skyrim Look and Run?

To give you an idea, Digital Foundry [1] found the Series X upgrade renders Skyrim at 4x the pixel count of the base Xbox One version. Draw distances are improved significantly, with objects appearing much farther into the distance. This gives the world more depth and realism.

The frame rate is rock solid at 60 FPS, giving you super smooth combat, exploration, and menus. On base consoles, Skyrim‘s frame rate could dip below 30 FPS in demanding scenes. So the consistency here is a very welcome upgrade.

As for loading, Digital Foundry clocked load times at 5-15 seconds on next-gen, versus 30-60 seconds on last-gen. That‘s a massive improvement that keeps you immersed.

What Do Critics Say About the Visual Upgrade?

The visual enhancements have been received very positively by critics:

  • "Skyrim looks incredible on PS5 and Xbox Series X, loading faster and playing smoother than ever thanks to the enhancements afforded by the newer consoles." – IGN [2]
  • "The glorious new version adds 4K resolution at 60 frames per second. It‘s shockingly beautiful." – Washington Post [3]

So in summary, the next-gen upgrade takes an already gorgeous open world game to new heights. Tamriel will look stunning on your new console.

Do I Need Any DLC for the Free Upgrade?

Nope! You only need the Special Edition base game, whether digital or physical disc. Owning the DLC like Dawngard or Hearthfire isn‘t required to get the free upgrade. Just the core game gets you access.

What If I Only Own Oldrim?

Now this is important: the free next-gen upgrade only applies if you own the Special Edition of Skyrim. If you only have the original base game, aka Oldrim, you aren‘t eligible for the free upgrade.

Instead, you‘d need to purchase Skyrim Special Edition in order to get the enhanced version on next-gen consoles. I know, it stings to buy again! But the visual overhaul and stability improvements make Special Edition worth it in my eyes.

Can I Transfer Saves from Oldrim to Special Edition?

If you do upgrade from Oldrim to Special Edition, you‘ll be starting fresh – existing save files aren‘t compatible between the two versions.

However, once you‘re on Special Edition, you can then transfer those saves to the enhanced next-gen version. So you‘d only have to start over once if upgrading from Oldrim.

What About My Mods and Achievements?

The good news here is that the upgrade process is designed to be seamless:

  • Your mods and load order will transfer over and remain intact.
  • You keep all existing achievements and trophies earned.
  • And as mentioned above, your saves also carry over.

Bethesda clearly wanted to make sure you don‘t lose anything you‘ve earned when upgrading to new consoles. So rest assured your Dragonborn will continue right where you left off!

Do PS4 and Xbox One Versions Get Upgraded Too?

Unfortunately no – the performance benefits are only available when playing the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S versions specifically.

The last-gen console editions don‘t receive any upgrades as part of this. Those versions are unchanged and remain at 1080p resolution, just with more stable frame rates than Oldrim.

Should I Just Stick with Special Edition on PS4/Xbox One?

You can absolutely continue enjoying Skyrim on your PS4 or Xbox One! Special Edition will of course look and run better than Oldrim on those consoles.

However, if you want the most immersive and definitive experience, I‘d highly recommend upgrading to next-gen once you get the chance. Skyrim truly shines on new hardware.

Is the Nintendo Switch Version Upgraded?

The Switch edition also does not receive any boosts – it runs natively on the Switch hardware with 720p resolution docked, and dynamic resolution portable.

While the handheld experience is great, Switch owners unfortunately miss out on the 4K, 60 FPS upgrades right now. Here‘s hoping Bethesda can enhance it down the road!

When Can I Get the Free PS5/Xbox Series X Upgrade?

The next-gen upgrade first launched in November 2021 alongside the Anniversary Edition release. If you own Special Edition digitally or physically, you can upgrade right now!

Simply insert your PS4 disc into the PS5, or find Skyrim in your Xbox library. The enhanced version will download automatically. Then you can explore an improved Tamriel to your heart‘s content.

Does the Upgrade Include Anniversary Edition Content?

One key clarification – the free next-gen upgrade only includes the core Special Edition game. It does NOT come with all the Anniversary Edition content like fishing, Survival Mode, etc.

The Anniversary Edition is a paid upgrade that bundles in all Creation Club content new and old. So don‘t expect those extras with the free upgrade. Think of it as just enhanced Special Edition.

Is Anniversary Edition Worth Buying Separately?

Anniversary Edition costs $20 if you already own Special Edition. Honestly, it comes down to your appetite for more Skyrim content. Here are the highlights in my opinion:

  • Fishing – A relaxing new activity that lets you cook fish for buffs
  • Survival Mode – Adds hunger, fatigue, and temperature survival mechanics
  • New Quests – Additional story content like The Cause, Redguard Elite Armaments, and more

If those sound fun, I‘d say Anniversary Edition is worth grabbing when it‘s on sale. But the free upgrade still offers a big improvement on its own.

The Bottom Line

Hopefully this deep dive clarified everything you need to know about upgrading to Skyrim Special Edition on next-gen consoles!

To recap:

  • Owning SE on PS4, Xbox One, or PC qualifies you for a free upgrade on PS5/Xbox Series X.
  • This includes 4K, 60 FPS, enhanced graphics, faster loading, and keeps your saves/mods.
  • But only Special Edition is eligible – not the original base game.
  • Anniversary Edition content is paid DLC.

So upgrade at no extra cost and enjoy Tamriel like never before. See you around Whiterun, my friend! As us geeks like to say, "May your framerates be high and your temperatures low."