The PS5 Is Still Lacking This One Major Feature, But There's Hope

High-end gaming PCs, for many, are the be-all and end-all of gaming. In terms of performance, potential, and sheer visual splendor, the best PC rigs can offer an experience unlike any other gaming console. This is not to discount conventional games consoles, however, as the latest generation of systems are capable of truly special things, too.

On the PlayStation 5, the likes of Sucker Punch's "Ghost of Tsushima" take cinematic gaming to a new level, a game that can be truly spectacular to behold. There's certainly a lot going on beneath the hood of Sony's mighty monolith of a console.

With its Disney Plus, Netflix, Prime Video, and Crunchyroll compatibility (among others), PS5 has full access to some of the most popular streaming services in the world as well — it's as much a multimedia hub as a console. This, of course, reflects Sony's illustrious place in the world of entertainment more generally. However, there's one specific feature that has been notably absent since the system's launch, and one that seems a strange omission for such a device.

PlayStation 5's lack of a true picture-in-picture mode

PlayStation 5 is designed around the concept of providing users quick and convenient access to a range of entertainment options. It also emphasizes the ability to switch between them just as effortlessly. Through the Game Switcher, a simple press of the controller's Home button allows the user to jump to another application or title from a handy list of favorites or recently-used ones.

It seems counter-productive, then, for the system not to include a true picture-in-picture mode. As a giant in the tech world, Sony has produced numerous TVs, some of which have such functionality built-in. It can be enabled by going to the Action Menu and selecting it on compatible Android TV televisions.

PlayStation 5 users, then, may wonder why they can't have a show running in the corner while they play a game, or why a TV-watcher and gamer can't enjoy their media side-by-side simultaneously. It seems, however, that the frequently requested and expanded picture-in-picture feature may be coming to the console after all. Hopefully, It does boast a range of surprising features, but for now, this isn't one of them.

Sony patent suggests a full picture-in-picture mode could be coming to PS5

The gaming industry, as with the world of technology in general, often inadvertently drops intriguing little glimpses into the future through patents. When a certain series or franchise's name appears on a patent again, it could just be a mundane sign of a patent being renewed, or it could indicate that something brand new is being worked on.

The Sony patent "1. WO2021178178 – Game Console Application With Action Card Strand" (per Patentscope) hints at a similar revelation: a dedicated PlayStation 5 picture-in-picture mode could be in the works. Published in October 2021, the patent's abstract describes "a computer system and method for presenting windows in a dynamic menu," in which "windows are arranged based on recent interaction."

The patent discusses the potential for music and video to be played side-by-side, as well as the finnicky nature of having to switch between apps to do such a thing without picture-in-picture. Perhaps, then, Sony is taking steps to resolve this issue. It is worth noting that a degree of picture-in-picture functionality is available to users already, but in an extremely limited capacity. 

By means of the "Popular Videos of Games You Follow" tab, players can select Picture-in-Picture from the Screen Layout tab on a YouTube video, then place the window where they please and continue playing. However, this feature does not extend to the wider world of YouTube, nor does it include any other streaming apps on the system. The only other way you can use picture-in-picture on PS5, in its current form, is when sharing gameplay with friends in a party chat. This patent could be big for those looking to do some media multitasking while gaming on PS5.