The PS4's Cloud Save System Is Inadequate

The PS4's Cloud Save System Is Inadequate

In the comparison between PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, Sony is about as behind in how they handle cloud saves as they are in getting their console to run Halo. It's time for them to close this gap.

The difference is dramatic. While both systems allow users to save game progress to a set of external servers called the cloud, making it easier to resume games on a second console, Microsoft does it in a free, automatic and seemingly unlimited way. Sony does it in an expensive, laborious and stingy way.

This is, perhaps, a niche problem, one that will only bother people who are rich enough to own multiple high-end consoles or charming enough to have friends who will let them visit their homes and resume playing in-progress games there. It's still a big feature gap, and what is the competition between consoles for, other than to have each console embarrass the other into feature parity? (I mean, the Wii U is going to add a free-game subscription program and a 500GB hard drive in order to keep up any day now, right?)

Let's look at this ugly comparison:

  • The Xbox One auto-syncs any user's save files to the cloud and retrieves them on any other system the gamer logs into when they boot up the relevant game.
  • The PS4 offers cloud saves only to paying subscribers to PlayStation Plus (a $US50 annual subscription) and syncs those saves to the cloud when you log out of the system but limits online save data storage to 1GB.

You probably shouldn't charge $US50 to offer an inferior version of what the other guy is selling for $US0. Maybe players are OK with that, though. The PS4, after all, can do things the Xbox One doesn't do at all, not even for $US50, like the whole letting-your-friend-take-over-your-game-over-the-Internet thing, which is really cool.

It is, however, indisputable and measurable that Sony's offer of 1GB of space for cloud saves is officially archaic. We are in 2015, the age of the very fun 2D action-adventure game Apotheon and it's amusingly-large, PC-inspired save files:

The PS4's Cloud Save System Is Inadequate

We live in a world where a Rocket League save is over 100MB.

Remember Driveclub? It consumes a 10th of that $US50 cloud storage.

The PS4's Cloud Save System Is Inadequate

Once your cloud storage is full, you get notified that the system failed to upload your most recent saves. You are informed that you can fix this by deleting save files. You have to delete them manually, with no indication about how much space you actually have.

PS4 owners have complained about this limit for months. Here, for example. Or here. Here, too. Maybe Sony's getting to it. I've asked. A PlayStation rep tells me they have no plans to announce any changes to online storage.

If they ever do plan to address it, though, it's not just the 1GB limit that needs raising, it's the process of managing saves online. The PS4 doesn't display how much online storage you're using and only allows files to be deleted one at a time. Some games generate a save file for each completed mission, so clearing out those is even more tedious.

If you're the person in charge of cloud storage at Sony, you might be surprised this is even an issue. Cloud saves are handy but hardly a thing people talked about a lot even last generation when they were first offered for consoles. Regular syncing of files is pretty nice, too. The problem is that once you let people auto-sync anything they're playing, they're going to use up all their space, especially if games have massive save files. Couple that with a competitor like Microsoft gleefully offering unlimited storage, likely as part of a bigger company strategy to enable cross-device digital game ownership on Xbox One (the original vision, remember) and to position Xbox One as a server-enhanced machine. You wind up with PS4 seeming really behind the times.

This does seem like a pretty easy one to fix, though. Add it to the list, Sony!

Enough of this:

The PS4's Cloud Save System Is Inadequate

To contact the author of this post, write to [email protected] or find him on Twitter @stephentotilo. Top image via Shutterstock.


    How the hell is a save file 300 megs?!

      We live in a world where data optimisation is dead. In the old days, programmers would have to efficiently code data to fit into relatively small storage requirements eg: floppy disc, or CD-ROM. And it was amazing what data limits they could encode now classic games to in size. Much like the World and it's excesses, digital downloads and large storage mediums ie: bluray mean that data optimization is not thought about by developers, let alone proper QA testing and that's stupid. Dead Rising 3 had a 13GB day one patch. Ridiculous. Yet people still pay for broken games and their inevitable large patches.

        I would suggest that it's rarely "not thought about by developers" but, rather, "we have a list of things that we'd like to do, they're prioritised based upon biggest wins for the final product, and we do as many as we can before the final deadline (which has been imposed by management/marketing/financial realities)"

      Apotheon has about 10 game saves in the one save file. But yeah it's basically lazy devs dumping the whole world state, probably in a format that could use some compression.

    1GB cloud storage space? Steady now, Australian providers can't even spell 1GB

    Has anyone worked out how to delete multiple items from the cloud on PS4 at once?

    Seems like I can only do 1 at a time, and when deleted it goes back to the TOP of the list, meaning you have scroll back down to where you were to delete the next one

    Erm, the $50 isn't just to be able to save your games on the cloud you know...

      Yes, but its one of the thing few things Microsoft give you without a Xbox live gold account.

    You have to delete them manually, with no indication about how much space you actually have.
    But the slide you show clearly shows how much each game save it taking up in MB.
    Am I missing something here?

      Yes. Stephen didn't say "how much each save is consuming", he said "how much space you actually have"

      It doesn't tell you on that screenshot that you only have 1Gb and you're swiftly using it all with the 100mb saves, so unless you knew already, or it tells you somewhere else (I don't own a PS4, I'm not sure if it does) then you wouldn't know about that limit.

        Correct. The PS4 doesn't show you how many mb you are using out of your 1000mb limit. All you can do is add them up in your head.

          I guess I don't find it much of a challenge to do so. Remaining space indicator would be nice I guess, but it isn't difficult to know if you are getting close to the limit.

            It's not a challenge but having an indicator is clearly a desired and logical option, no matter how easy it is for you. I can roughly tell how fast I'm going in a car but since going above the limit is not desirable due to the litany of potential consequences, a speedometer as a basic feature is quite logical. Same goes for this, it is entirely irrelevant whether it's possible to gauge space manually, it is not ideal for a service you are paying for and are limited by so stringently.

            Can't believe so many make excuses solely based on their own perspective, seriously, it took me a second to think about why and how this would obviously help a litany of other people (especially since it takes almost no effort to implement and features don't exist to serve only me) and avoid confusion. Mystified as to why this guy constantly mentions difficulty as if it has any bearing on whether a historically standard feature should be included in a 2015 internet-enabled device or not. Stop making excuses, ease is irrelevant. Should we eliminate standby switches because you can turn it off at the wall? Let's never clean windows since it's technically possible to see through a filthy one.

    This. And it's only still early days in this console's life.

    PS+ is free games and sales. It, and the PSN generally are pretty terrible as online networks.

    The fact that Sony is still pushing the hilariously bad, pay to stream BC solution says everything you need to know about the system and customer service standards Sony expects from its network.

    To be honest I haven't ever used the cloud save feature, I know I should for backup etc.

    I've just been managing my PS4 much like the PS3, rotating out old games and leaving space for things I'm playing at the time.

    That is one thing Xbox one has done since day one and done right is the save system it basically takes care of itself and requires no input from the user. I'm sure with enough people complaining the 1GB limit will be raised on PS4

      It wasn’t until I went to a mates house and all my save games were there that I even realised it was cloud saving everything automatically.

      No ‘choose your storage device’, no ‘logging into the cloud’….. it just happens seemlessly you never notice.

      The best thing is that it really takes the worry out of any hardware failure. I’ve downloaded some 20+ games for my Xbone and the games and saves are all connected to my Xbox Live account (which I’ve got near-maximum security settings on).
      With iiNet I can download things from Xbox Live uncapped, so even if worst case scenario if someone broke into my house tomorrow and stole everything Xbone related I could have my games, account, saves ect all replaced as soon as I bought a new machine.

      As someone who had his 360 die on multiple occasions I do enjoy that peace of mind.

        I had EB Games replace my console when the disc drive was faulty when when I got my console home a feeling of dread washed over me because I never backed anything up. Then I realised, like you said. The xbone was on the job automatically synching everything without prompting.

      Of the many boneheaded ideas MS had at launch that reduced user management like not showing you available hard drive space, this is one of those features that actually worked well and made sense to take it out of the user's control and just do it for them.

    Constantly referring to it as "$50 worth of storage space" is a bit disingenuous, as a PS+ subscription gives many other benefits too.

    According to this FAQ, Microsoft only offers 512mb of storage.

      See, this is what I was thinking all the way through this article! My 360 definitely only had 512MB of cloud saves last time I saw AND it doesn't automatically sync all my saves to it. So I'd say that it's probably inferior to the PS version, unless there's something new on the xbone that I don't know about?

        I'm 99% sure cloud saves on the 360 synch automatically as long as you select the cloud as the save location when you first play the game. But you are right on with the 512MB space.

        Last edited 30/07/15 12:32 pm

          Oh, it definitely does if you select it as the save location. That's what I used for my Dark Souls save! But I much prefer the peace-of-mind that the PS platform provides by backing up everything, even if I wasn't smart enough to select that option manually in the first place.

        360 cloud saves are definitely limited, which is now causing a problem with Xbox One backwards compatibility. All Xbox One backwards compatible games need their saves to be cloud saves.

        Xbox One however has unlimited cloud save storage.

        I'd never really thought about it until now. According to TA, I have 47 Xbox One games, and I've never had it tell me I was running out of space or anything (and save games for things like The Witcher are probably pretty big by themselves).
        It's possible it automatically removes old saves from the cloud to make room for new ones.

    the ps4 cloud save thing really annoys me. And it being only 1Gb, is that 1Gb for vita, ps3 and ps4?

    If it is, how do I go and delete my ps3 cloud saves without a ps3 now?

      Through the PS4. One at a time. Very slowly.

    I remember the days of 8MB memory cards in my PS2 and that held all the save files I EVER needed

      you obviously didnt have a game with a 2mb save file :(

      64mb memory cards was where it was at!

        I never knew it even went that high!!

          They sure did!

          Not legit sony ones but PS1 also had them to. Many aftermarket ones, i found them to be not that reliable so id run two of them and have one as backup.

        WWF SmackDown Just Bring It anyone??? 4172kb - boom more than half your memory card gone with one game.

      how about the original ps1 memory cards that had 15 blocks and gran turismo took half of it

    I don't really care about it being locked away behind PS+ since I can't really imagine not having PS+ anyway. But yeah, the 1Gb allocation is nowhere near enough. It might have been OK when they first introduced it 5 years ago or whenever it was, but these days - not even close. Make it 10Gb or, even better, unlimited.

    Out of curiosity - if your PS+ subscription DOES lapse, do you lose all your cloud saves? Or are they still there if you renew your subscription later on?

    Last edited 30/07/15 12:44 pm

      They are still there. But I think only for a specific amount of time.

    You also get failed uploads if you don't delete all the notifications in the download and upload section I found out recently. You also have to delete these individually which is a pain

      Wow - I've been getting failed uploads for a while, haven't bothered investigating further. Thanks for the tip.

        yeah it's no fun to do but it should fix that problem

    One other thing that annoys me is that if cloud saves weren't gated behind PS+, they could have been used as the basis for the "cross save" functionality found in a number of games released for multiple Sony consoles. As it is, each game with cross save functionality (from Sound Shapes to Borderlands 2) will have its own cloud save functionality hidden in a menu somewhere.

    If the system's cloud save functionality worked well and was universal, it would have been a simple matter to say that the PS4 version of the game should be able to access the PS3/Vita versions' cloud saves and vice versa, and that would be it.

    Android M is bringing this feature, but not just for games, for all apps. 25mb per app I believe. Will be great.

    I cant believe Sony charges $50 just for cloud saves when MS give it for free.
    Seriously who would pay that?

    Good work mr Totilo for bringing the measurable and indisputable facts out about it.

      Umm, it doesn't just get you cloud storage, it also gives you access to a bunch of free games every month for all current Sony consoles (PS3/PS4/PS Vita) and the ability to play online multiplayer on PS4. It is certainly worth the annual cost.

    mine has been perfect since PS3.

    Although it does scare me on PS4 when i say upload a 100+mb save file and somehow my .2mbps upload connection seems to upload the save file in less than 20 seconds :S

    But it always works

    If you have SingStar, as far as I can tell, it includes all your tracks in that 1GB. In other words, if you have SingStar set to cloud save, it will single-handedly use your entire storage space.

    The thing about Apotheon is it's a 2D platformer. How the heck can they even accumulate enough data to justify a 300MB save file? Are they snapshotting the entire game state? I could almost understand that sort of size for an open-world sandbox game like Far Cry 4, but a 2D platformer save file should not be over 1MB. Under most circumstances, it shouldn't be over 10kb.

    The only thing I can think of is if the snapshots include an uncompressed bitmap of the screen where the game was saved, but even a 1920x1080 24-bit colour image is only about 6MB.

    Hmm, my Driveclub save was up around 300 MB as well. I just deleted it for the very reasons this article outlines. It was mainly ghost and replay data, i.e. pointless data to backup.

    On that note, if they are going to continue with such a small upload capacity, perhaps games can offer intelligent PS+ upload filtering, e.g. progress saves get uploaded, whilst replay data and other data used by the game in real-time gets skipped. (I still have nightmares about UFC Undisputed 3 and it's ridiculous habit of recording all fights in full for the last 20 odd fights! The games save files habitually hovered around 8 GB in total!)

    2cents: Currently at the time of writing this the storage is now 10gb which is still not enough and I am not a big gammer. Also there multi-delete seems to have been added. Back to the size. On my PS4's, I have two in seperate building which I share with my kid, two of her games use more than 10gb of save space. Lego Worlds and Mine Craft... No matter how much I nag her I can't get her to stop creating new saves/worlds on Mine Craft and Lego worlds she has three but they are enormous. Additionally looking at manually managing some of these by deleting redundant saves from games that seem to generate a new files every time it saves or something. It can be really hard to tell if a save file is redundant or not, or if it is associated etc.

    Where possible I am keeping storage of unused games on a USB HDD and removing from the PS4. I could leave them on and untick them in the list of auto-uploads. But it's easier to go through the list for them to not be there. Anyway. An additional issue with this manually managing even when using auto-upload is that they have buried the various option in the settings menu and in different locations.

    This doesn't even cover the issue of owning two machines that I would like have synced.

    If it really is an issue for Sony to limit storage of these files they could make it easier to use and more automated. Part of that could be to specify some save policies to developers and make them specify the file types so the OS know clearly what each file is. This could then be easily prioritised. For example. Always upload settings file, most recent save. This last one is where things could use some policy. For example. if there is a multi file save (part 1, part 2 etc) then the system needs to know they are all linked instead of the OS just looking at dates only which is rather crude. But it also needs to know when a seperate, world or save category, exists since playing one would put another out of date. The Auto-upload also needs to be able to self manage more as mentioned the article. Requiring a user to go make space is a fail, especially when it's complicated and messy to do. An obvious hack solution would be to have it auto delete the oldest played games saves. But for some with lots of active games this could come unstuck if they didn't know this had happened.

    Could go on, but really nuf said.

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