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Steam Family Sharing lets users lend game libraries

Steam will soon let users share their library of games with up to 10 authorized devices via Steam Family Sharing. The new feature announced today will go into beta in "about a week," according to its Steam Group.

Users can share their libraries with one another by authorizing devices, either remotely by email or in-person via Steam's settings. Once that device is authorized, one friend at a time can access, download, and play any supported game from the lender's library, unlocking achievements and saving progress the same as if the friend owned it.

But Steam Family Sharing is meant to share libraries as a whole, not individual games. Therefore if a "borrowing" user is playing a game when the owner starts playing (the same game or any other in the shared library), the borrower will be given a few minutes to save his or her progress and either buy the game or quit.

Theoretically, you and a friend could each play the other's library as long as you want. But as soon as one of you wants to play from your own, the other will get booted out.

Also note that not all Steam games are eligible: those that require an external CD key, account, or subscription are off the table. And all region locks will remain in place, no matter who owns what.

Despite the restrictions, it's a promising step for more flexible digital ownership. Join Steam Family Sharing's official group for a chance at a beta invite.

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17 comments

  • penny2129 - September 12, 2013 11:10 a.m.

    I love Valve. Now, if they can make it so you can co-op campaign with a friend on the same copy of the game, I will be extra happy.
  • brickman409 - September 11, 2013 4:03 p.m.

    interesting
  • sandplasma - September 11, 2013 2 p.m.

    Confusion!
  • Eightboll812 - September 11, 2013 12:37 p.m.

    How is this different from how Steam currently works? If I want to access my library from another PC, I'm fully able to do that already. And it already boots me out of the other computer when that happens. So is this just restricting it from an unlimited number of devices DOWN to ten and calling it a new feature or what?
  • CrashmanX - September 11, 2013 12:56 p.m.

    Say I have Dark Souls and I'm not going to play it for a long time. I can then allow YOU access to my library and you can play Dark Souls as if it were your own. You'll get achievements, time played, etc. Then if I want to play it again it'll ask you to buy the game and will boot you off after a bit. It's just like letting a friend borrow a game.
  • Eightboll812 - September 11, 2013 1:03 p.m.

    So let me try to understand this better. Currently, I can play my games on any computer I own. I could even play them on your computer if I login to my account on your computer. However, any achievements earned while playing would still be mine. That's current. With this sharing, I can let you borrow my entire library, but when you play it, you are earning achievements for yourself? The thing that I still find confusing, is that the article referred to sharing with 10 devices, but you are saying it's not devices, it's users. Or is it user/devices??
  • haggerznaple - September 11, 2013 6:38 p.m.

    From what I understand this applies to entire libraries simultaneously. You can lend me Dark Souls, but as soon as you access any other game from your library I'll be booted. You could be trying to play anything but Dark Souls, but because you accessed your account I'll be booted from Dark Souls. This is only convenient for letting friends and family across the state/country/world access your games (assuming they aren't region locked). Otherwise, the system they have in place is the same damn thing it's been for years; only one device can access someone's entire library at a time, not pick and choose specific games. I'd like to be wrong in this. Can anyone correct me? Am I reading this wrong?
  • Eightboll812 - September 11, 2013 9:22 p.m.

    It's useful in other ways too. If I have a family, living under one roof, we all have to share a single steam account or I have to buy multiple copies of games. Compare this to present day consoles where a family can have multiple accounts and play one copy of a game. When you look at it that way, Steam is sort of backwards by comparison. This feature appears to eliminate this silly restriction. Now I can buy one copy of "Call of Duty" and whoever happens to have computer time at the moment can play and play under their own Steam account.
  • FoxdenRacing - September 12, 2013 10:33 a.m.

    My understanding is that it's intended for a multi-gamer, single-machine home. Under the system as proposed, every gamer in the home can have their own progress, achievements, etc...but Valve is trying to allow gamers to go back to 'one purchase per household'...as it was before DD, and something console gamers still enjoy. It's still not the utility a hard copy provides, but attempting to give PC gamers the ability to make it's a step in the right direction...and thankfully not an implementation so terrible the idea of digital fluidity goes away permanently.
  • haggerznaple - September 12, 2013 11:11 a.m.

    Oh, I see. So it's intended for those who either use their computer as a set top box, like a PS3 or XB360, or for families who share a computer. This would allow my kids to play my games while their logged in on their accounts. I think I get it now. This isn't so bad anymore. I'm planning on getting an Alienware X51 for my kids to play games on our 50" TV, and this program would be perfect for that. Hopefully you can block what games others are allowed to play. I don't want my 7 year old playing my copies of Amnesia or Hotline Miami, for example, but I'm totally fine with him playing my copy of FTL. Thanks for the clarification
  • FoxdenRacing - September 12, 2013 11:23 a.m.

    Welcome to it! That kind of parental control would be something to ask Valve how to do; I don't think that's built in, but that'd be a good feature to have. One thing I do know for sure is to hunker down for a pile of "What, when Xbox did it it sucks, when Valve does it it's great? Fanboy much?" style hate...as a lot of guys are going to look at just the titles. There's a lot of guys like me that thought Xbox's digital sharing idea was intriguing, but the implementation was beyond terrible, and they caught hades for it.
  • ZuzuPachulia - September 11, 2013 12:34 p.m.

    I know I know, xbone did it first. But really, microsoft did not push this feature as much as they should have. All I remember hearing from them was all the negative stuff about the console. I can't even think of a time when they came straight out and gave a big public announcement of this kind of feature. It is a good idea, but microsoft just didn't know how to handle it well at all. I know valve is much more capable of making this more effective.
  • Eightboll812 - September 11, 2013 9:38 p.m.

    Look at it from another angle. They copied the ONE thing that was unpopular from Steam, that you can't trade games between accounts (i.e. used game blocking), added always connected and added always Kinect'ed (and spying), two unpopular new features, and then on the heels of that mentioned family sharing. The fact is, had they mentioned family sharing up front, it would still have been a tough sell because they were packing in 3 unpopular features. And then mix in the fact that the main reason people tolerate the limitations of Steam is because Steam is so darn cheap. If I buy something at 80% off, I can buy 5 copies at the same price as one console copy. MS has no track record of even having the one benefit Steam has. Now compare again to Steam with this new family sharing plan. It's would be like the original Xbone without being always online, without forcing you to have Kinect, and with like 4 times better sales, and now sharing. The one thing they would have in common is limiting used game trading. The point is that MS wouldn't have done much better had they talked about family sharing on day one because they had several unpopular gimmicks to try to explain away.
  • theguyinthecloset - September 11, 2013 12:31 p.m.

    let me get thsi straight. Xbox tries to steal ideas from steam but it fails with the public. Then they put a big red X mark on it and then steam copies the ideas Xbox got from inspiration from steam? funny how inpiration works.
  • Eightboll812 - September 11, 2013 12:44 p.m.

    People have said it a million times already. Steam has a long history of offering incredible deals, up to 80% off and on even new titles. MS, not so much. Steam has competition, not strong competition, but nonetheless competition for digital content on the PC. MS has none on Xbox, and that's why point #1 is true. Competition creates deals for customers, and absence of competition creates monopolies and higher prices. It is A + B + C that people reacted to with MS, not A alone, and not to mention, no one believed there was any intent to let 10 copies be completely free to 10 friends, while at the same time trying to extract a used game fee for specific publishers' games.
  • CrashmanX - September 11, 2013 12:47 p.m.

    In the case of Xbox, they allowed the sharing of digital media but not Physical Media. Steam is purely digital and does digital-only media VERY well and has proven itself by not backing down on it's methods, Xbox on the other hand changed.
  • Shinn - September 11, 2013 1:31 p.m.

    The difference here is that steam already let you keep you library offline on any other device you wanted. Now another account can share your library. Oh, and you wont lose access to your library if you don't ping valves servers at arbitrary intervals, so you don't lose any of the control you already had over your games.

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