Google on Thursday announced family sharing for its Stadia cloud gaming service, bringing one of the more consumer-friendly features of digital game marketplaces to its platform. Family sharing will allow any group of Stadia users linked through Google’s Play Family Library system to use one digital license for a game purchase across multiple accounts. That way, you only need to buy one copy of a game for a parent and child or two siblings to both play it separately with separate save data. And in a nice move, only one account needs a Pro subscription to be able to claim free games and share them with the group.
Google says the feature is rolling out starting today and may take about a week or so to reach all users. Earlier reports from 9to5Google and Android Police reported the feature showing up in the Stadia settings panel, prior to Google’s official announcement on the Stadia Reddit page.
The family sharing feature works through the Google Play Family Library system that lets Android users share mobile apps and services across multiple accounts in a single household. It sounds like a somewhat convoluted process to set it all up, but the best way to start is by setting up Google Play Family Library by following the tutorial here and then following the steps on this separate tutorial here for creating a Stadia account for your child or family member if that person doesn’t already have a Stadia account. Google says you will need to have a valid payment method attached to share your library.
There are some restrictions. Google says two accounts can’t play the same shared game at the same time, unless both accounts have separately purchased it or have both claimed it as part of the Stadia Pro subscription. And if you share a game you claimed for free with Stadia Pro and you let your subscription lapse or you cancel it, that game won’t be available to share any longer. Although Google does say any title you purchase through the Stadia store is eligible for sharing, and that includes free games claimed with Pro.
You might be wondering in what scenarios would this actually be useful to families. Wouldn’t just having one Stadia account on multiple devices suffice, especially if you can’t play the same game on more than one screen at the same time?
Effectively, Google has opened the door here for friends to create family groups and share their games, instead of simply limiting it to one household. While there are plenty of settings to allow a parent to control what children play using this family sharing feature — including turning off sharing for specific games and setting age rating limits — the implicit understanding here is that you don’t have to be technically part of the same household to take advantage of these features.
The key restriction, however, is that you can’t play the same game at the same time, so that will limit how aggressively Stadia players try to use family sharing as a way to split the cost of games or use a friend’s library as their own.