Every Game Should Let You Cross-Save
It’s easy to sync your progress with traditional forms of media. If you’re watching a movie and decide to finish watching it somewhere else, you can easily open the video on another device and pick up where you left off. Kindle has Whispersync, which is like cross-save for books: You can read on a Kindle for 100 pages, then open the Kindle app on your phone—or even the Audible app—and it jumps to the place in your book where you left off.
Game progress is a lot harder to re-create if you need to, either in story-heavy games that track your choices or multiplayer games that reward your playtime with loot and cosmetic customizations. Everybody’s playthroughs, character stats, and world states are going to be a little different, meaning there’s a lot more data that needs to be uploaded and downloaded. Still, if you want to switch platforms or just switch rooms, without the ability to transfer saves, you’d have to give up all your recent progress and start over. If cross progression were adopted more widely across the industry, the feature could do for gaming what wireless controllers did and literally untether you from your main console.
Of course, losing that stickiness which keeps people loyal to one ecosystem is what makes gaming companies nervous. Microsoft and Sony have spent the past few years gobbling up big game companies so they can release popular titles exclusively on their own platforms. Nintendo is in a league of its own and keeps all of its homegrown titles exclusively on its devices.
But with the proliferation of cloud gaming and subscription services like XBox Game Pass, that ability to carry your progress within a game to any system is becoming more common. People are collecting more gaming hardware too.
“The trend now is people have multiple platforms,” Cole says. “A lot of people own a Nintendo and then either a PlayStation or Xbox and then a PC and a mobile device. They’ll have four different platforms, where they can hop back and forth.”
Even if the console giants don’t want to play nice, developers are finding workarounds to make their games truly cross-platform. Cloud services from developers like Ubisoft and CD Projekt Red let users make online accounts that keep game data synced and convert it to work on other platforms. Yes, that means you’ll have to set up more user accounts for more services, which is annoying. But being able to play a game like Assassin’s Creed on any platform you like—and then switch on a whim—feels freeing.
I have Cyberpunk 2077 on both the PlayStation and the Steam Deck. (Yeah, I got two different copies of the game. In my defense, they were both on sale at the time.) It feels amazing to be able to switch between the two and keep all my progress. I can play full guns blazing on the TV, then switch to Steam’s handheld when my girlfriend wants to watch The Great British Baking Show. We can sit together on the couch, her watching contestants turn ingredients into sweet cakes with flour-coated hands, while I’m turning bad guys into meat kebabs with my katana arms. It’s perfect.