Loading screen-free direct gameplay on the PlayStation has been an ambition of Sony’s for a while, and maybe it’s actually getting closer to finally implementing that in its consoles. According to TechRadar, Sony recently filed a patent that will allow players to skip the loading screens and cycling through menus entirely, because we shouldn’t have to be patient and wait for things anymore. The patent, which was published by USPTO, details the use of “templates” set by a player to start a game in any way they wish—like instantly jumping into a multiplayer game without having to wait to match with a team, resuming a saved game without having to select ‘resume game,’ or instantly switching between games.
It’s kind of like the old days of console gaming, before a save function was invented; you had to pause your game, and leave your console on, if you wanted to pick up right where you left off. That’s the idea behind direct gameplay, jumping right into where you left off, only it involves a much more complex system of networks and cloud servers—and you can turn your console off while the game is ‘paused’ elsewhere.
“The user can select the template, which then may launch the activity associated with the template [...] Each template may be updated, edited, or removed, or new templates may be created,” says Sony in its patent. It sounds like the player will have to set these templates for every game they own, should they choose. I don’t see much benefit to setting a template to a game like Overwatch, because I don’t play the same game mode every time I launch the game, but a singleplayer game like Life is Strange? Yes. Take me straight to where I left off.
It’s also not entirely clear if these templates will work only when you launch a game, or if they will also work in-game. For instance, I just finished a competitive match in Overwatch; will it instantly throw me into a new game as soon as the match is over, or will the template I created allow me to select ‘no,’ and take me back to the main menu?
In its patent, Sony also describes the use of cloud servers as one possible way it could implement direct gameplay. This wouldn’t be like cloud gaming, though, as your games would still be saved to your PlayStation. As it currently stands with cloud gaming platforms, like Google Stadia and GeForce Now, you can pick up where you left off on any supported device, but you still need to cycle through the menu to launch the game and wait for it to load, which depends on your internet connection.
One of Sony’s big promises with its PS5 is that installing or updating games will be much more instantaneous due to its custom SSD that it says has read speeds of up to 5.5 GB/s. But a fast SSD doesn’t get rid of loading times, which is why Sony is still exploring this direct gamplay option—and it seems much more possible now that gaming in the cloud is a thing. But it seems unlikely that we’ll see direct gameplay at the PS5's launch, so for now, it’s still just a promise.