The PS5 has been an excellent console ever since its debut in late 2020, but to say that’s solely down to the number of high-quality exclusives available on Sony’s flagship console would actually be doing it a disservice. The PS5’s loaded with great games, sure, but it’s also got a handful of brilliant features to augment your time with any game.
Whether that be the Activity Cards that draw your attention to certain elements of a game, its Trophies, or the DualSense wireless controller’s phenomenal haptic feedback and adaptive triggers, the PS5 by and large has set itself apart as a premium gaming experience well worth its price (and the time investment needed to actually track down stock of the elusive console).
But there’s one feature in particular that has exponentially added to my enjoyment of some games of late, and it’s one I honestly had no idea was an arrow in the PS5’s quiver until very recently. That feature is screen sharing.
Admittedly, the concept of PS5 screen share isn’t anything that sounds particularly groundbreaking, nor would it necessarily turn heads if Sony itself brought more attention to it. But what I’ve found when using PS5 screen share is that it can turn even single-player games into a more social experience.
I’ll give you the first big example that really sold me on PS5 screen share, and it came shortly after the release of Gran Turismo 7. That game in itself has a few features that work much better than they sound, such as its excellent DualSense motion controls. But as myself and a friend were grinding our way through the utterly brutal Licence Centre, aiming for Gold on each and every challenge, he suggested we try loading up the screen share feature so that we could keep an eye on each others’ progress.
Using the PS5 screen share’s “picture-in-picture” mode, which overlays a small window featuring my friend’s screen on top of my own, we were both able to progress through GT7’s Licence Centre challenges while keeping an eye on how the other was getting on. The result was a genuinely game-changing experience that had us both laughing at each others’ failed attempts, as well as egging each other on to shave precious milliseconds off of our best times.
And that’s when it struck me. What the PS5 screen share feature had effectively achieved is to turn what’s normally a single-player game mode into something akin to a multiplayer experience. Sure, we weren’t directly interacting with each others’ games; we weren’t racing on the same track on the same multiplayer session. But we were actively participating in each others’ play sessions through this shared viewing.
It's like livestreaming, but...
Of course, the concept of watching another’s gameplay online certainly isn’t anything new. Live broadcast sites like Twitch and YouTube Gaming have been around for over a decade now, where potentially thousands of viewers can tune into a single streamer and create a unique social environment that’s difficult to replicate anywhere else.
PS5 screen sharing isn’t quite that, though. It’s something I found to be a bit more intimate, and a whole lot more interactive as a result. That’s because the viewing experience isn’t a one-way lane. Or at least, it doesn’t have to be. While you can view a buddy’s gameplay by bumping up the screen share view to full-screen, it was the superb picture-in-picture mode that allowed the two of us to play and watch at the same time.
That’s not to say the experience was entirely seamless. Video quality would vary quite frequently over a Wi-Fi connection, and sometimes the screen share feature would randomly close completely, forcing us both to set up screen sharing from scratch. Thankfully the setup process couldn’t be easier, but it was frustrating to occasionally have to restart screen sharing whenever it decided it didn’t want to work anymore.
PS5 screen share also isn’t without its limitations. You can only share your screen if you’re in-game and outside of content that prevents the use of the tool (such as a cutscene or terms and conditions pages). It’s unfortunate, but you understandably can’t use PS5 screen share for apps like Netflix, Disney Plus, YouTube, or other streaming services that host subscription-based content.
A whole new way to play?
Ultimately, I’ve walked away from my time with PS5 screen share believing it’s a genuinely fantastic feature on Sony’s flagship console, but only because it’s possible we were using it in a way that wasn’t necessarily intended.
It may very well be a quirk of the feature that both myself and my friend were able to stream our screens simultaneously. But in doing so, we’d transformed an often mind-breakingly frustrating segment of GT7 into something that amused us for hours.
I’d love to try out PS5 screen share for a range of different games, just to see how it impacts my approach to playing them. Whether that be challenging a friend to racing up the endless tower in the new Returnal update, or competing to be the first to beat certain combo missions in The King of Fighters 15.
It’s definitely a feature I’ll be telling more friends about, and may even manage to breathe some new life into games we haven’t played on our PS5s for quite some time.
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Rhys is TRG's Hardware Editor, and has been part of the TechRadar team for more than two years. Particularly passionate about high-quality third-party controllers and headsets, as well as the latest and greatest in fight sticks and VR, Rhys strives to provide easy-to-read, informative coverage on gaming hardware of all kinds. As for the games themselves, Rhys is especially keen on fighting and racing games, as well as soulslikes and RPGs.