Over the weekend, after putting over a hundred hours into Assassin's Creed Odyssey, I made the decision to start all over again. Well, I didn't exactly have another option. I wanted to play Assassin's Creed Odyssey on PC, and all my previous progress was tied to the PlayStation 4 version of the game. Despite both games connecting to Ubisoft's Uplay service, my save games remained separate.
That's why I was very excited to hear about a recent patch for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt — Complete Edition on Nintendo Switch, which adds cross-save support. This new option connects the Switch version with the PC version on Steam and GOG. If you play on either platform, you can move your save back-and-forth. That means you can enjoy the game with maximum visual impact on PC, but also take it on-the-go on Switch. The best of both worlds.
I gushed about this feature for Divinity: Original Sin 2 on Nintendo Switch last year. It completely changes how you engage with a game, knowing you that you can choose where to experience it without being boxed in on one platform or losing your progress. Cross-save hasn't come to Divinity: Original Sin 2 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and it doesn't look like it'll happen for The Witcher 3 on those platforms either.
"This option is something we designed for the Switch version specifically, together with Saber Interactive—the team which was closely cooperating with us on the Switch port," a CD Projekt Red spokesperson told USG. "There are no plans regarding similar functionality in the other versions of The Witcher 3."
That brings me to the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. With the next generation of consoles right around the corner, there's a lot of discussion of the new features they'll bring to the table. Improved graphics are to be expected, with hardware ray tracing leading the way. Faster hard drives and backward compatibility also seem to be incoming. But part of the change in console generations isn't just more computing power, it's how we interact with games.
I'm hoping that the next generation will bring consoles closer together, rather than pushing them further apart. Cross-save, cross-platform play, and potentially cross-buy, should be bigger features. Happily, Microsoft is already moving in this direction.
"Our goal for our first-party games is that your entitlements will be cross-generation and your Achievements will move effectively with your save game because that’s where they stand," Xbox boss Phil Spencer told Stevivor at X019. "[Xbox] 360 to One shouldn’t have been [two self-contained silos] either. I think for all of us the more a game can be the game and your players can play that game in the different places they want to play it and remain that their [save] state and everything is with them is a good thing."
Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney echoed these sentiments in a 2018 interview. "With a game like Fortnite, in middle schools you have classrooms who play together. That traditional divide between PlayStation and Xbox owners doesn’t need to be there… It’s an amazing thing. Sony and Microsoft honor purchases in Fortnite made on an iOS platform, or on their platform. In that way all of these platforms are working together."
There are occasionally reasons to not allow cross-platform play, especially in the case of competitive PvP games, where mouse-and-keyboard controls have the potential to confer an advantage. But cross-save is nothing but a boon for publishers. A number of players remarked that they'd buy The Witcher 3 again on Switch upon learning that they could transfer their save from the PC version.
"That's a game changer. Wasn't considering the Switch port at all after buying on PS4 and PC, but I might now," said one Reddit user.
"There it is. There’s my reason to get the Switch version. More games should do stuff like this when they re-release on different platforms," added another Reddit user.
I own The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt on PlayStation 4, PC, and Nintendo Switch, and up until today, none of these versions talked to each other. I essentially had three different games. If I were to buy Witcher 3 today, the Switch and PC versions would be at the top of my list. Imagine if Doom Eternal were coming to Switch, and there was cross-save on Switch, Xbox One, and PC, but not PS4? It would make the PS4 version look less enticing overall.
The next generation of consoles should be built on the concept of cross-platform interconnectivity. There's little reason for multi-platform games to not allow players to move their profiles and progress. Our saves are why we continue to engage with a game. They provide a record of our choices, mistakes, and amazing moments. We should be able to carry those with us regardless of where we go, rather than losing 20, 30, or 100 hours of play just because we've moved from one platform to another.
Now is the time for platform holders, publishers, and developers to lay the foundation for a more open future. More so than improved graphics, cross-platform options should be the defining feature of the next generation. I'm more than ready.