As reported yesterday, PS3 system software 3.60 is live - as is the long-rumored cloud game save storage for PlayStation Plus subscribers.
How does the new feature work and, along with the other PlayStation Plus features, does cloud saving make it worth upgrading to a paid account with Sony?
Despite a somewhat vague announcement at E3 2010, Sony's premium online service has been adding features, not to mention offering a lot of free content - growing into a surprisingly rich package for the price.
Even at the time of the Plus service launch, it was unclear whether the premium subscription would merely be a coupon program with niche appeal (like PlayStation home) or a paid platform where Sony could provide wanted features - without taking away any existing features offered as part of the basic PSN package.
Despite providing a number of quality titles at discounted rates (or entirely free), PlayStation Plus has yet to truly provide a must-have feature for Sony gamers that would help coerce holdouts into taking the paid Plus plunge. So, is the new PlayStation Plus cloud saving feature the next must-have OS add-on? It depends.
For anyone hoping for a robust online game save syncing system, where you could seamlessly access data from the cloud in-game, you might be getting a bit head of yourself - and could be somewhat disappointed by the limited functionality of the Plus cloud. Instead of an auto-updating system cloud-based hub, such as Apple's MobileMe service, the Sony cloud storage is essentially just a drop-box for transferring and backing up saves - somewhere other than your PS3. The functionality is exactly the same as Sony's supported USB storage - since files are copied, not moved (or sync'd), to the cloud. The cloud appears in the Game Saves section of the XMB as a folder - allowing for files to be downloaded or uploaded.
However, you cannot play files directly from the cloud - they must be downloaded into the PS3 in order to be used in-game (and, if changes are made that a player would like to keep, the new save data will need to be uploaded back to the cloud). The lack of an auto-save option or smart syncing system is not a deal-breaker but all the file management could prove to be more of hassle than it's worth for some players. As a result, most PlayStation Plus members will likely use the cloud for accessing certain game saves when at a friend's house - as well as backing up especially hard-earned game data they'd be scared to lose.
As a storage option, the cloud also has fewer limitations regarding which saves can be copied, such as those previously restricted from being copied to external devices, which can be copied to the cloud (though their are limits on the number of times some files can be downloaded per 24 hours).
PlayStation Plus users receive 150MB worth of cloud storage, which should be plenty for most gamers, as most files average around 1MB. That said, some older files, such as a BioShock end game save weighed in at nearly 12MB - which, depending on the games in a player's collection could force some users into making some hard decisions regarding what is cloud-worthy.
PS3 Cloud Storage is probably the first step in a larger multi-device syncing infrastructure Sony intends to unveil as we get closer to the NGP launch; however, for the time being, it's a limited but certainly useful addition to the premium PlayStation Plus service - especially for anyone who gets nervous about the idea of losing their save data.
PlayStation Plus is available for $49.99 a year and can be purchased through the PlayStation Store.