Friends and family of PC gamers are about to have their library of Steam titles jump way up in size. Steam has announced a new Family Sharing program that will allow gamers to share their entire library of titles with up to 10 additional devices, letting others they know play any game that they own, so long as only one person is accessing the library at a time. The feature will be available in a limited beta beginning next week, when an initial 1,000 accounts will be granted access.
10 friends, few restrictions
Though it appears that Family Sharing will support most titles in gamers' libraries, Steam does note that "some" games, such as those that require third-party serial keys or recurring subscriptions, won't be sharable. Region locked games still won't be usable outside of their region either.
To begin sharing a title, one Steam user will send a request for another user to authorize their device. Once the device is authorized, it'll be counted toward the 10 total devices that are always allowed access to that account's library of titles. That won't mean sharing accounts or game progress though — each account will remain discrete, recording its own game saves and achievements. But because only one device can access the library at a time, the account owner will always be given priority. Steam will kick borrowers off if they don't wrap up within a few minutes.
Valve's move to allow game sharing in Steam has been rumored in the past, and its announcement just before the release of new consoles from Microsoft and Sony may be of little coincidence. How game sharing will work on the Xbox One became something of a controversy, with Microsoft ultimately scrapping what were seemingly ambitious sharing plans for something a lot more common fare. But even if game consoles don't pose a specific threat on the sharing front, PC gamers have still never had a simple way to swap titles that's as easy as bringing a game disc over to a friend's house. Now with Steam Family Sharing, Valve may be able to create another strong argument for gaming on the PC over a console.