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PS Now Is Holding Your Save Files Hostage: Now What?

Playstation’s Streaming Service Woes Are Indicative Of A Greater Problem

There are a lot of things in life that don’t make sense to me. Ok boomer’s hysteria, for one thing. Grown-ass adults failing at logic, another. Even the vaping ban of yore boggles the mind.

It seems like life is an exercise in asking: excuse me, wtf?

But what possibly confuses me more—because humans are by nature consistently disappointing—is when businesses engage in practices that are anti-customer and think this makes a lick of sense.

One such business being Sony Playstation

Specifically Playstation Now, Sony’s streaming service

In theory, Playstation Now is a cash-strapped gamer’s perfect solution: Pay $9.99 a month and get lightning-fast streaming access to 800+ titles on tons of different digital devices. In fact, Sony’s streaming service is doing very well indeed. PS Now has received a huge boost during these crayola times, boasting 2.2 million subscribers.

PS Now also offers many PS3 titles, which is rad because even if you’ve missed a gem, you get the opportunity to play it anyways.

But what PS Now doesn’t offer is out-of-the-box support for rescuing your save files if you want to actually purchase the games you’ve lowkey rented.

(Sorry Shallie & Shallie, I can never truly take you with me.)

For that, you need PS Plus.

PS Now isn’t $9.99 if you want to actually own the games you lowkey ‘rent’

It’s $20, because for gamers who like owning things, PS Plus is non-negotiable

Say you’ve played a PS Now title and you enjoyed it. You want to purchase it and don’t want to lose your progress. You now have to rescue your save files from PS Now, instead of migrating them out-of-the-box like one would expect.

In order to liberate your saves, you need to get a subscription for PS Plus. This bumps the price from $9.99 to $20. That cost is fine, or it would be.

But that’s not the end of it. There exists a preposterous UX-nightmare dance you must engage with, and it only sometimes works, which I’ll get to shortly.

You start off by opening the game in the streaming service. You need an active PS Now subscription, as well as PS Plus; there is no rescue otherwise. 

Then you press the PS button in the center of your controller and pray it gives you the option to migrate your save files.

Thirdly, you must upload everything to “””””””the cloud”””””””.

Then, you have to whole-ass exit PS Now.

Then, you have to go all the way to the settings on your PS4 console to download what you uploaded. Depending on what you’re trying to do, saving it to a USB stick might be the best option. 

It’s not very complicated, but it is a lot of needless menu navigation.

(Let’s get a UX professional who is sensitive to gamers on this, please.)

With this process, I managed to salvage my Rogue Galaxy save files; one of my favorite somewhat-obscure PS2 titles. 

I was very satisfied with this outcome…

Until it came time to scoop up the often maligned, but honestly awesome, Tales of Zestiria. Sadly, the PS Now Streaming Service’s version of Zesty is PS3-specific. Hmm…

You may be formulating a question in your mind right now, maybe equipped with a tad bit of panic:

Can you transfer PS3 PS Now saves to the PS Plus Cloud?

Well yes, but actually no…

The option to rescue Zesty never showed up. Because of this, I spent 40 minutes on the phone with Sony Playstation’s customer service seeking a solution. Apparently, you were once able to log into PS Now on PS3 and rescue your save files. Apparently, this is now impossible.

After talking to the rep, he gave me the truth about rescuing PS3-specific save files from PS Now:

Because Playstation is ‘looking forward, not back’, you cannot rescue PS3 saves from PS Now at this current moment in time.

That renders PS Now’s exhaustive PS3 game catalog moot to the saving function of PS Plus. Not only is this frustrating, but it’s also indicative of Sony’s sentiments towards backwards compatibility, which I’ll get to shortly.

According to the rep, PS3 titles run off an entirely different server than PS1/PS2/PS4 titles.

PS3 saves won’t work on PS4 because you get PS3-specific trophies, can download PS3 DLCs, and the PS4 just doesn’t know how to deal with this.

PS1/PS2 has none of that baggage, so those saves are safe.

He mentioned that, because the PS Now Streaming Service was relaunched/revamped, we may very well find that PS3 save-file-liberation will be available again in the future.

But as far as I’m concerned, and the rep lowkey agreed, Sony Playstation just doesn’t care about its PS3 catalog very much. In fact, it doesn’t seem to care very much about its legacy catalog at all.

Looking forward—not back—brings me to one conclusion:

Backwards compatibility is not a Sony priority, even if gamers keep requesting it

HD remasters may be the compromise Sony proposes for older titles, but that solution seems at odds with a constant request: gamers want backwards compatibility. PS Now’s PS3 save-file issue is just another symptom of this reluctance to be fully pro-consumer.

More than that, they appear to think gamers don’t want this feature:

As Sony global sales chief Jim Ryan tells TIME, backwards compatibility is something the company has taken some steps to address with things like HD remasters of select PlayStation 2 titles, but it just isn’t something that gamers ultimately use that much, even if they claim it’s something they want. “When we’ve dabbled with backwards compatibility, I can say it is one of those features that is much requested, but not actually used much,” said Ryan. “That, and I was at a Gran Turismo event recently where they had PS1, PS2, PS3, and PS4 games, and the PS1 and the PS2 games, they looked ancient, like why would anybody play this?”

It’s puzzling how Ryan—global sales chief of Sony—can claim gamers don’t ultimately use pure backwards compatibility, when Sony has never truly offered it aside from PS1/PS2 consoles.

Furthermore, if the growing catalog of PS1/2/3 titles in PS Now’s roster is any indication of what gamers are into (I’d assume this inclusion was spurred by sales/use data), it stands to reason it’s very much desired.

Lastly, if Ryan thinks outdated graphics impede enjoyment for gamers, I’m unsure if he’s in touch with the average gamer’s age, which is 35, and consequentially people who grew up comfortable with crunchy graphics.

What he seems to suggest is new gamers are the key demographic, ones who are most likely into eSports and fresh titles. Forwards, not backwards.

This leaves loyal, life-long fans of the console in the dust.

(I’ll redact this article if Sony manages to surprise me, but until then, no.)

I’m sure that Sony has other priorities right now, like the PS5

But this specific priority, that gamers want, has really has never felt like a priority, at all

Imagine if you bought a digital copy of a TV show you’ve binged halfway through, and Amazon Prime Video updated its app, thus rendering your copy inaccessible. That’s very anti-consumer, isn’t it? Yet Sony doesn’t really seem to mind the likesome roadblock between PS3 and PS4.

With streaming service ubiquity for both software and media, I can’t help but feel like customers are getting shafted out of actually owning the things they buy. This, my friends, is anti-consumer.

To counter that narrative, the Nintendo Switch is now offering various titles that would have been lost to time immemorial. You purchase them, and they are your’s.

Nintendo is rescuing older titles like the Trails series. It’s offering a way to play these older games, all on one system.

Decidedly, Nintendo wants to support gamers who lament the loss of older titles. They perhaps also want to get new fans of beloved older IPs into the fold. That shows a level of care I don’t see Sony possessing.

There are so many wonderful games people have missed out on. Either due to time, lagging releases in their country, or otherwise.

Having that option is very pro-consumer, and if I’ve learned anything in my marketing career, it’s that this is the only way to truly do business.

Because ranting about this could easily take up another 6,000 words, I leave you with one final sentiment.

Something I think Sony would do well to remember:

Being pro-consumer is being a pro-business.

Consider giving your long-time, loyal fans what they want. It makes money-sense and gives us just one more reason to stan.

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