Xbox One allows you to share games with ten “family” members, but some details remain murky

Xbox One allows you to share games with ten “family” members, but some details remain murky

I brought up the family sharing feature of the Xbox One during my recent conversation with Microsoft's Phil Spencer, and I stated that it's one of the nicer aspects of the console that not many people are talking about.

“You’re going to help us with that?” he asked. I'd love to, but trying to pin down exactly how the system will work has proved tricky.

Multiple people, but at the same time?

The idea is that ten people in your family group can all share your games. Think of it like a loaning system, but you're not loaning anyone a phyiscal product. If you're in my family group, you can play my games, and vice versa. 

“I think the policy makes sense,” Spencer said. “It’s not ten different people all playing the game concurrently, but when you think about a real usage scenario, and we thought about it around a family, and I know certain people will create a family group of people that aren’t all part of the same family, and I do think that’s an advantage, and people will use that. I saw it on NeoGAF instantly, the Xbox Family creation threads, where people said 'Hey be a part of my family.'”

“No birth certificates will need to be sent in!” Spencer said when I asked if the service required a blood test. “I do think that’s an advantage of the ecosystem that we have.”

So that answers one question: Microsoft doesn't seem to care whether or not the ten people in the group are actually family members. They can be friends, roommates, boyfriends, girlfriends, your dog's groomer… you pick ten people, and you share games with them. 

The question is how many people can play the game at the same time. Spencer told me he believed that two people can play one copy of a game concurrently, but he urged me to check Microsoft's official wording on the matter to be sure. This is what the licensing page states:

Just like today, a family member can play your copy of Forza Motorsport at a friend’s house. Only now, they will see not just Forza, but all of your shared games.  You can always play your games, and any one of your family members can be playing from your shared library at a given time.

So one family member can play a game at a time, but can I be playing the same game? If I buy one copy of a multiplayer title, can I play it in co-op with my son if I own two Xbox One systems?

“The only limitation, it seems, is that only one person can be playing the shared copy of a single game at any given time,” Ars Technica reported after speaking with Microsoft Xbox Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer Yusuf Mehdi. “All in all, this does sound like a pretty convenient feature that's more workable than simply passing discs around amongst friends who are actually in your area.”

Still, the ability to pool your games with up to ten “family members” is a geniune advantage of the Xbox One ecosystem. Even if only one person can be playing the game at a time, you gain access to every game the people on your family list own, allowing you to jump into new releases the second they get done with the game.

On the other hand, I'd hate to think that I need to call a friend or family member to tell them to stop playing a game I just bought so I can play my title. Many of these usage cases and limitations may not be explained clearly until the system is released and we can test these services for ourselves, but we'll keep digging to try to figure this one out.