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Ghost of Tsushima: how Sony tackled PS5's cross-gen save problem

No cloud transfers required - it just works.

Ghost of Tsushima has been given a proper PlayStation 5 upgrade, increasing resolution, decreasing loading times and removing pre-rendered cinematics for full real-time alternatives. It's a decent - though not exactly game-changing - upgrade, but what did catch our eye beyond this is how the new PS5 version imports any existing PlayStation 4 game saves you may have on your system. It's not a completely seamless experience, but the fact is that cross-save now works, allowing you to easily pick up on PS5 where you left off on PS4.

The technical explanation for PlayStation 5's cross-save issues is fairly straightforward. Up until recently, the PS5 system software has no visibility or access to any PlayStation 4 data on your console, meaning that highly convoluted means were required to move progress from one generation to the next. Essentially, the PS4 version of the game had to be patched to allow game saves to be uploaded to the cloud. Moving over to PS5, the cloud data would then be downloaded and progress could continue. Final Fantasy 7 Remake and Marvel's Spider-Man Remastered are two good examples of this workaround in action. However, more recent titles including Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and now Ghost of Tsushima have allowed for native import of PS4 games.

There's the cross-save transfer option - and a look at the save game import screen.

We had a look at Sony's SDK roadmap a while back and the concept of allowing PlayStation 5 titles to access PlayStation 4 user data was promised for a future update, which now appears to have rolled out. The first time I loaded Ghost of Tsushima, I disconnected my PS5 from the internet to rule out any potential cloud transfers, accessed the PS4 save game transfer option and discovered that all of my PS4 saves were available - the same saves I generated when I looked at the PS5 60fps patch for the game back in January. In turn, those saves were transferred across from my PS4 Pro using USB storage.

There are some extra flourishes to the system too - as you would hope, existing trophies from PS4 transition seamlessly onto PlayStation 5 and I noticed them start to pop in sequence as soon as I entered gameplay (with that said, this Tweet thread explains how some trophies need to be re-earned). The import system is also careful to warn you that imported data will overwrite any existing save games you may have, and it offers you the chance to opt out of erasing standard single-player and Legends mode progress. In terms of limitations with the system, users still need to import PS4 data into the PS5 save area - it looks like PS5 titles can read PS4 data, but can't write it. A more seamless solution - to automatically import from cloud storage - also seems to have been a 'no brainer' function that has not been implemented. In this sense, Microsoft's smart delivery system, offering seamless interchange of data between generations, does still seem to be the more robust solution.

So going forward with other games, we should expect to see a smoother transition of save data between the generations, and there's also the hope that older cross-gen titles might be updated to include this functionality. Just to sound a note of caution here though: as far as we are aware, this ability to access PS4 save data is a function of the system software meaning that games would need to be updated to the new SDK and patched. With that in mind, there's the sense that this functionality is a somewhat late to the party, but on the flip side, it's great to see actual progress here in making what is likely to be an extended cross-gen period more easy for users and developers to handle.