Shared VMs are deprecated:
The Shared virtual machine feature (VMware Workstation as server) is
being deprecated. It will remain in its present form for the remainder
of the VMware Workstation 16 product life. This feature will be not
available in a future release.
There is a workaround. You can still start them manually with task scheduler via
vmrun. But I have not done that personally so I can't provide details.
Great News Update: I found a January 2021 discussion where mikeroySoft from VMware hopped in with some more details:
To be clear, it’s really just the underpinning framework that we’re
using to deliver that feature that’s being deprecated. I expect we’ll
have a new way to ‘autostart VMs’ in the future.
The shared vm feature uses this huge component from ESXi that has sort
of run its course when ported to our stack. (Hostd for those
curious...) but we are looking to implement this without hostd in the
So the answer is: The current feature will be removed in VMware Workstation 17. Luckily, they are looking for ways to implement auto-start VMs another way after that "Shared VMs" feature is removed. Hopefully the new method is ready immediately when version 17 launches.