Ever since Valve announced Steam support for the PS3 last year, it’s been relatively vague what that would entail since then. With the upcoming release of Portal 2, some of those details have become clear, and speculation about the nature of the service’s presence on Sony’s platform only grows.
First the quick details. Portal 2 will support Steamcloud for save files. This means that if you clear the first five levels of the game on one platform, you can resume play right where you left off on any other. The save files are saved online via Steam, and are available wherever you access your account.
Second, the game will support cross-platform chat and matchmaking between PS3, PC, and Mac. Whether that matchmaking is for competitive or cooperative multiplayer, I’m not sure. However, games that bridge the gap between consoles and PC/Mac are few and far between. Hopefully the title is high-profile enough to attract attention to this sort of feature cropping up in more games in the future.
Last and perhaps most important, to grease the wheels on this whole cross-platform play thing, if you buy the game on PS3, you get the PC and Mac versions thrown in for free. Take a moment and let the significance of that sink in. If the precedent sticks, this could open the doors to more games featured on Steam that are currently PC-only becoming available on PS3. Obviously you can’t just slap the PC version on a PS3 and expect it to work, but the possibility would then exist for a publisher to release a game on Steam and allow players to purchase it once, then play it on the platform of their choice.
Of course, there are some companies that will be more willing than others to offer more for less. Valve is taking point and setting an example here that is in gamers’ best interests. However, will bigger players like EA, Activision, and Ubisoft — companies known for releasing sequels (sometimes too often) that sometimes sacrifice innovation and quality to turn a quick buck — step up and follow suit, offering cross-platform games for a single purchase? Only time will tell, but I’m hopeful they will come around.