I thought the whole point of Family Sharing was so that multiple copies of the game didn't have to be bought. I have no problem downloading the game, but instead of "Play", my only option once it's downloaded is "Buy". Am I missing something?

3 Answers 3


Steam Family Sharing only allows you to play the game if the account the game is actually purchased under isn't active. It counts as active if anyone is playing any game in it.

So if...

  • the account owner is playing any game they purchased, not just the one you want to play
  • Anyone else they're sharing with has already "borrowed" a game from their account

...it will prevent you from starting any game in their library. When it's locked like that, it presents the "Buy" button option instead, like you saw. When the account is free again - when that user stops playing whatever game they are in now - you will see a Play button again.

There are some games that just can't be shared at all due to needing additional registration and accounts apart from Steam, but those will not appear in the shared library at all. So you wouldn't be able to download or install them in the first place (checked this against The Secret World, it doesn't appear at all when the account is shared).

(edited to include additional information from comments, thank you Keavon, Ismael Miguel, James Thorpe, & Ben Jackson)

  • 2
    Also note that other users playing the person's shared games will also make that person's games count as "in use".
    – Keavon
    Commented Mar 1, 2015 at 2:58
  • 7
    That feature is kinda stupid, but makes sense. You are really sharing the game. Like if you handed the Bluray disk to the other person. Commented Mar 1, 2015 at 5:38
  • 1
    It's also disallowed on certain games - for example Arma 3 doesn't allow it. Commented Mar 1, 2015 at 8:19
  • 4
    It's disallowed on games with 3rd party registration (e.g. uPlay) because only one person can register the key you get from Steam. It is also disabled for some multiplayer games which are not sharing-aware such that a cheater or griefer could repeatedly "share" with new accounts to get around bans. Commented Mar 1, 2015 at 9:14
  • 3
    This makes little sense to me. So if I, as the parent, share with my kids... and I'm playing game A, they can't play game B? This sort of defeats the purpose of sharing. I understand not letting us both play A at the same time, but we should be able to play different games.
    – D. A.
    Commented Sep 8, 2018 at 18:21

It seems the family sharing needs to be reenabled about once a year or so. I have a family sharing account that I'm certain is not being used by anyone else, yet the only option I have is "purchase". After logging back into the owning account and reenabling sharing, it works correctly again.


In addition to Radhil's answer there may be another reason why you cannot share a game. Specifically in regards to Valve games, if you purchase a bundle such as the Orange Box, you will not be able to share any of the games as part of the bundle.



I have the same problem, also bought the HL2 series as a bundle.


I have a problem with this, but mine is happening on EVERY source game. did you buy the half life complete package? I bought them with valve complete pack. that might be the culprit. the bundled games. not sure though, valve has not responded to any of these posts. smh


Theres another topic about problem with games from bundles/packs.

For exaple: CS:GO can be shared ONLY if was bought as single game. If you bought Valve Complete Pack or Counter-Strike Complete Pack you CANT share games from it.

Its verry annoying. SFS started in year 2013 and they cant fix many EASY to fix THINGS. Shame on You.... Valve. Shame - On - You.


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