On Reddit, there were complaints about having to pay $20 a year for the online service, yet being unable to use its cloud save service for any game (a feature provided for years even in the now-ancient Xbox 360). One VentureBeat writer wrote that the news made him “anxious.” It’s puzzling that Nintendo’s most high-commitment games, like Animal Crossing or the Splatoon series, don’t support a service that ensures your long hours don’t disappear into the ether. Nintendo, despite its reputation as the world’s best game maker, is a terrible service provider.
So it’s jarring that last week, on the Nintendo Switch, a game from 2015 made a small but gratifying step toward the future of the industry. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt on the Switch suddenly allowed cloud save and cross-save functionality with the PC release. That means owners of both versions can easily transfer save data between the two platforms.
Jumping between platforms on The Witcher 3 is a modern-day gaming miracle. And at least according to Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games, this needs to be the future.
Epic Games’s Fortnite has led the industry in cross-platform, cross-saving functionality. The game forced Sony’s hand, opening up the PlayStation 4 to players on other platforms, and inspired Activision Blizzard to allow players to sign-in to the same one account, no matter what platform they’re playing the latest Call of Duty game on.
In his keynote speech at this year’s DICE Summit, Sweeney pushed for more cross-platform usage, arguing that it encourages spending and creates a social network that transcends platforms.
“The numbers have proved this is the future of gaming,” Sweeney said, referring to Epic Games’s own success opening up Fortnite. “What really needs to happen next is connecting and federating all these different systems together.”
In The Witcher 3 on the Switch, the future is seamlessly integrated. If you already have Witcher 3 save files on your Steam or GOG account, all you have to do is click “Cloud Save” in the Witcher 3 menu (make sure you update to version 3.6). Pick whether to login to Steam or GOG, punch in your account information, and simply pick the save file you want to use.
From there, you can save that file onto your Switch’s memory. And if you want to upload your Switch progress to your PC, you can just click “Upload.” You can then continue your Witcher 3 Switch file in glorious 60 frames per second on your computer tower without missing a beat.
I recently played through a huge chunk of The Witcher 3 on Steam, thanks to the Netflix show renewing my interest in the game’s world. But because I already burned through the game properly on the PlayStation 4, I modded my PC file to make it easier to get through some of the more tedious activities, like raising money.
Thanks to the cross-save function, my PC file transferred to my Switch with my buffed out armor and $9 million intact (more money than I could ever hope to spend in the game). The Witcher 3 went to outer space to grab my Steam save file off a satellite, just to beam it right back into my little red and blue handheld console.
Nintendo has yet to fully explain its decision to not support full cloud saves on Animal Crossing, or on its biggest high commitment games, including From Software’s Dark Souls Remastered (Dark Souls on other platforms supports cloud saves). And Splatoon 2, an online shooter, also doesn’t support it, despite the feature being readily available for years on more complicated and more popular online shooters with lively competitive communities, such as Call of Duty.
Animal Crossing is not an esport. It won’t have leader boards. So cheating probably isn’t Nintendo’s concern. If full cloud save support isn’t possible for Animal Crossing, Switch customers deserve an explanation for why.
Nintendo is also releasing conflicting information at the moment. Nintendo’s YouTube channel reuploaded the Direct two days later, but with reworded language to state “more details on save data recovery functionality” will be shared at a later date.
Meanwhile Nintendo UK clarified that the ability to transfer save data to a new console will be available later. Their website spells out that “a function specific to Animal Crossing: New Horizons to move users and save data to another console is planned for later this year." While that’s a relief, particularly to households with multiple consoles, it’s puzzling why this function isn’t available immediately. The Post reached out to Nintendo for comment and will update when we receive a response.
Meanwhile, the Witcher is enjoying a brand Renaissance, in part thanks to the Netflix show. Publisher Orbit Books announced in January that to meet demand, it was reprinting half a million more copies for U.S. distribution.
CD Projekt Red, meanwhile, proudly announced Friday that 80 percent of its revenue is coming from Steam sales of The Witcher 3, a game that broke records in concurrent players after the Netflix show dropped in December. The Steam version has amassed $50 million in revenue since October 2018. And the game has sold 554 percent more copies in December than it did the previous year, boosted by the Switch release and the Netflix show.
As the game is more popular than ever, every version of the game has been getting tons of free updates in the last four years, including the Switch version’s cross-save and graphical updates. It’s become one of the most well-supported and generous games on the market, remarkable for a single-player, offline role-playing game.
The Witcher 3, a 2015 game, is more relevant and successful today than ever before, thanks to its ability to update and evolve with its audience’s changing needs. Nintendo has leaned on the power of its many special brands, Animal Crossing and Pokémon included, to keep itself competitive. Now it should look to keeping its players happy, and less anxious.