These days, with downloadable games being the norm, sharing your games isn’t as easy as handing your friend a disc. Maybe you’ve run into a situation on your PlayStation 4 where, even though a game is downloaded on your machine, you can’t play it, since the licence is technically owned by a different user. The PS5 has a similar roadblock, but you can circumvent it by messing around with the system’s settings.
The setting you’re looking for, specifically, is “console sharing and offline play.” Make sure you’re signed into the console as yourself and not as someone else with an account on the system. Then, follow these steps:
- Open up your settings.
- Go to the “Users and Accounts” menu.
- Scroll down to “Other.”
- Click on “console sharing and offline play.”
This should pull up a submenu that allows you to enable or disable console sharing. By default — having tested it with two PS Plus accounts now — the setting seems to be enabled automatically when you first sign in.
OK, what’s this good for?
Those familiar with the concept of “primary” PS4s will know how this works. If you turn on console sharing, any other accounts on that system will be able to play the games you’ve downloaded to the system or to extended storage, even if the machine is disconnected from the internet. As with a primary PS4, you can only turn on console sharing for one PS5 at a time. (Don’t worry: Turning on console sharing for a PS5 won’t affect a PS4 you’ve designated as your primary console.)
Here’s an example of how it works in practice: Let’s say person one, Joel, signs into a PS5 for the first time. He downloads Ghostrunner — the excellent cyberpunk wallrunning game by One More Level — and enables console sharing, then walks away to, I don’t know, play guitar and brood. Person two, Ellie, signs in. By that point, Ghostrunner has finished downloading. The game has piqued Ellie’s interest, and even though she didn’t buy it, she can still play, because it’s downloaded onto the console Joel enabled console sharing on.
Conversely, Joel can’t play Spider-Man: Miles Morales. Yes, Ellie downloaded Insomniac’s cat simulator to the PS5’s internal storage, but she disabled console sharing, so Joel’s locked out. To play the game, he’d either have to purchase his own licence or convince Ellie to enable (or re-enable) console sharing and offline play.
In other words, “console sharing and offline play” is more or less to the PS5 what “primary PS4” was to the PS4. And yes, one account can have both a primary PS4 and a primary PS5 active at the same time.
Anything else I should know?
On the PS4, you could assign and unassign a primary console as often as you liked, so long as you performed the function on the console, rather than, say, from a browser. (If needed, you can deactivate primary consoles remotely via Sony’s website.) Since my government failed to act either reactively or proactively in order to contain the world-upending covid-19 pandemic, I’m stuck in my apartment from now until the end of forever. As such, I haven’t been able to test what it’s like to bounce your account between various PS5 consoles — and, specifically, if there are any limits as to how frequently you can turn this setting on or off.
For what it’s worth, the system hasn’t warned me about any. (On Xbox consoles, you can switch the similar “Home Xbox” feature just five times per one-year period. The console will tell you how many switches are remaining in your year.) I’ve had no trouble enabling or disabling console sharing on my PS5. (Kotaku reached out to Sony for further info.)
There also seems to be a limit on PlayStation Now, Sony’s games-on-demand service. Even with console sharing activated for both of our accounts, my roommate, who is not signed up for the service, was unable to make use of my subscription. Whenever he tabbed over to the PS Now menu in the game library, he was prompted to subscribe before streaming any games.
Beyond that, activating console sharing has no apparent drawbacks. For those in a shared living situation — whether that’s with family, friends, or trustworthy randos — flicking the setting on is an effective way to share games on one console between all users. Or, if you have the $699 disc-drive edition, you could just pop in the disc. That still works, same as it ever has.