updated 02:25 pm EDT, Wed September 11, 2013
New service allows loaning users to earn achievements, save progress
Online cross-platform game seller Steam has unveiled Steam Family Sharing, a new service feature that allows close friends and family members to share their libraries of games. The feature will become available next week, in limited beta. Up to 10 devices may be authorized per Steam account, and the sharing is not limited to the confines of a single house or geographic locality, but only one user can be logged into the account at any time -- with priority given to the account owner.
Steam Family Sharing is designed for close friends and family members to play one another's Steam games while each earning their own Steam achievements and storing their own saves and application data to the Steam cloud. The beta process will begin next week, with subscribers to the "Family Sharing" group receiving the first invites.
The plan resembles the now-cancelled Xbox One original family sharing plan. Once a device is authorized, the lender's library of Steam games becomes available for others on the machine to access, download, and play. Though simultaneous usage of an account's library is not allowed, the lender may always access and play owned games at any time. If the owning user decides to start playing when a friend is borrowing one of the games, the friend will be given a few minutes to either purchase the game or quit playing.
Libraries are shared and borrowed in entirety. Due to technical limitations, some Steam games may be unavailable for sharing. For example, titles that require an additional third-party key, account, or subscription in order to play cannot be shared between accounts. A game may only be accessed by one user at a time. Region restrictions will remain in place when lending or borrowing content.
"Our customers have expressed a desire to share their digital games among friends and family members, just as current retail games, books, DVDs, and other physical media can be shared," explained Anna Sweet of Valve. "Family Sharing was created in direct response to these user requests."