Best answer: These are two very different features. Share Play allows you to share a game with your PSN friends, even if they don't own the game themselves and Play Together lets you and your friends launch a game together at the same time from the party menu, but this is just the very basic idea of each.
- Multiplayer necessity: PlayStation Plus: 12 Month Membership - Digital Code (opens in new tab) ($60 at Amazon)
Apples and Oranges
The truth is that Share Play and Play Together are so different that beyond both being features on PlayStation 4, the only major similarity is you use them online with a friend(s). Rather than looking at a list of differences, let's look at each individually first.
What is Share Play?
Share Play is a feature that allows you to share games with your friends even if they don't own the game themselves. You can only use it with one other person at a time.
In a single-player game you can either simply hand them control of your game and let them play as you watch or swap control back and forth. If you've ever had those childhood days of sitting around the same room with friends or siblings playing games together by taking turns each level or swapping out when you die, Share Play can offer a similar feel.
However, multiplayer games are where Share Play shines. If you have a game that allows for local multiplayer like FIFA or Unravel 2 and LittleBigPlanet 3, you can play that game with your friend as if they were sitting right next to you. And they still don't need to own or even download the game!
There are several restrictions in using Share Play. As mentioned above, it only works with two people and both of you will need a PlayStation Plus membership for multiplayer games even though only the host will need the game. The game itself needs to be available in both players' home countries. Games that require using the PlayStation Camera aren't supported. Parental Control levels must match, and the friend's age must be appropriate for the game's age rating. And the last thing, sessions in Share Play run a maximum of 60 minutes, but you have an unlimited amount of uses and can just hop right back in.
What is Play Together?
Play Together is an easy way to join up for co-op and team games. Rather than having to launch the game and then invite each friend separately, you can invite all your friends in one fell swoop through the party menu before launching the game all together.
For example, you're planning on playing some Dauntless with a handful of friends. You can now go to your party screen to invite everybody at once before launching the game. Then, in the party menu, you select Play Together and the game you wanted to launch (Dauntless in this case). As long as everybody has the game installed, it will launch automatically for all party members at once.
Alternatively, if a friend is already hosting a game and the party isn't maxed out or set to private, you can join them through Play Together. You just need to select the Join option instead of Host.
The only real restrictions for Play Together are that all party members need to own the game and have it installed. You each need a PlayStation Plus subscription (which is true for all online multiplayer games), and the game needs to support the feature. Without a list, this last one becomes a little hit or miss, but it's reasonably safe to assume new releases of multiplayer games do support it.
The way I picture Share Play versus Play Together is in how you use them. Share Play is like inviting a friend over to tag-team a solo game or to play a local co-op game. Play Together is more like having a bunch of friends over for a multiplayer game night.
One is a two-player max; the other is a party anywhere from 2 to 8 players. One only you need to own the game, the other everybody does. Both are free (other than the need to have PlayStation Plus) so grab your friends and play some games. Try them both and enjoy your friend's company!
PlayStation Plus: 12 Month Membership - Digital Code
Plays well with others 🎇
PlayStation Plus is the only way for you to play online multiplayer and you'll need it for Share Play as well. But it does come with perks, like getting two free PlayStation games each month.
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