Soon You'll Be Able To Share And Borrow Steam Games

Soon You'll Be Able To Share And Borrow Steam Games

You'll soon be able to borrow digital PC games like you would disks -- Valve has just announced a program called Steam Family Sharing that will let up to 10 Steam accounts share a single library of games. But there's a catch.

If I authorise your computer to be one of my sharing buddies, you can download any of my games and play them on your account, with your own achievements and save files. The catch: we won't be able to play games at the same time -- think of it like you're borrowing my computer for a bit. If I try to play a game while you're using any game from my library, you'll get a warning to either purchase that game or quit, and then you'll be booted.

The feature will enter beta next week. Here's the press release:

September 11, 2013 - Steam Family Sharing, a new service feature that allows close friends and family members to share their libraries of Steam games, is coming to Steam, a leading platform for the delivery and management of PC, Mac, and Linux games and software. The feature will become available next week, in limited beta on Steam.

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. It's all enabled by authorizing a shared computer.

"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."

Once a device is authorised, 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 his games at any time. If he decides to start playing when a friend is borrowing one of his games, the friend will be given a few minutes to either purchase the game or quit playing.

If this sounds familiar, that's because it's quite similar to the Xbox One's coolest feature, the Family Sharing plan, which was cut from launch, but might come back one day.

The limit on this new Steam sharing plan is 10 authorised devices -- just like the Xbox One's family plan was going to be.

Also worth noting: not all games will work as part of this program. Says Valve: "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."

For more specifics -- and to sign up for the program -- check out Valve's official Steam sharing website.

Image: Shutterstock


    Well. Well well.

    I know my friends must be smacking their lips right now over the idea of getting access to my library.

      Even if you have the most games out of your friends you can still have fun with this. If you feel like messing with a friend you can launch a game they are "borrowing" off of you whilst they are middle of play and boot them out of it, just the rile them up :)

      On second thought, maybe that's a bit mean.

    It's great to see that Steam realise the value in this and are getting on board, even if Microsoft won't. With any luck this might even push Microsoft to bring it back to the Xbox.

      I was thinking that.

      Also, I wonder how the DRM will work. Vallve said that two people can't play at the same time, so how will that be enforced? The Xbone prevented simultaneous use of a game by requiring hourly internet check-ins for the person borrowing the game.

        I would assume the same way they check if your logged into two places at once.

    It's not really the same as game sharing on consoles though. If I lend a game (physical) to a friend or family, if I start playing on my console, they're not suddenly going to be booted off playing my game after a few minutes. This isn't much different from giving someone your log in info and letting them play while you're at work or on holiday or something as they'll be kicked out once you log in at your computer anyway. The only difference I can think of is they wouldn't have access to your payment details if you save them to your profile

      It's not the same as sharing on the console because if you give them physical disc, you can't play anymore. It's with them. They won't be booted because they have the disc and you don't

        but you can still play a different game while they're playing the game you lent them. From what I'm getting from this announcement, they can play your games but as soon as you boot up any game from your library, anyone playing from your library will be given a few minutes to save and be booted out, doesn't matter if they're playing the same game as you or not.

          I think, that's the big catch there - you cannot play ANY of your games, while someone is borrowing your account. But at least it's a good start and might change, so you can play different games at the same time.

            Though simultaneous usage of an account’s library is not allowed, the lender may always access and play his games at any time. If he decides to start playing when a friend is borrowing one of his games, the friend will be given a few minutes to either purchase the game or quit playing.

            That's a confusing statement right there. It begins by talking about a library not being able to be used simultaneously but at the end refers to a game not being able to be shared.

              It's not really that confusing. The library is just the collection of games. When you're borrowing from a friend you're accessing his library. You can't both be playing games from the one library at the same time, so you have to quit your game, regardless of what game it is or what game he has started playing.

              The only point that statement is making is that the actual owner of the game always has first priority and can't be blocked from their own library just because one of his buddies is in the middle of a game of Peggle or whatever.

                Ahhhh, I read it again and your supposition seems correct.

            Yeah, I just had this argument with a colleague, and then we both came to the realization.
            If they let us both play games from the same library, then they would be losing A LOT of sales.
            So I feel its fair from that point.

    Shame they were forced into it due to consumer protection violations in Germany.

    "The catch: we won’t be able to play games at the same time — think of it like you’re borrowing my computer for a bit. If I try to play a game while you’re using any game from my library, you’ll get a warning to either purchase that game or quit, and then you’ll be booted."
    That sort of renders it a bit useless. Plus they've made no mention if it has internet requirements (I'm guessing both people need to be connected for it to work?)
    We'll see how it goes in the beta though, hopefully it works well.

      Could you elaborate on how this is a useless feature? It's a sharing plan to give people a better taste than a demo might. Sales would drop immensely if they allowed you to borrow and play the same game at the same time. Some people would just buy one copy of the game and share it with 9 friends to play together. 9 lost sales. Multiply that across any multiplayer game and there would be huge sale loss.

      Also, why would both people need to be connected. I purchase a game, I download a local copy to play. The steam servers hold the record that I have purchased this game. A friend, who I have authorised to access my library, signs into the steam server and downloads the copy from the steam server using my registration. I would never need to sign in for them to access my library

        yes but if they were playing your games you couldnt play ANY of your other games without disrupting them

        I think you've misread how it works. You can't be playing two separate games at one time. Only one person can access the library (all the games as a whole) at one time. So say I have a friend playing Magicka from my library, if I start up Just Cause 2 Steam will stop my friend from being able to play Magicka.
        And yes, you'd need the internet for this. So it can tell how many people are accessing the library at that moment of time. Otherwise you and all of your friends could jump in to offline mode and play the games at the same time, as much as you want.

        Last edited 12/09/13 9:20 am

          I think its totally fair to say only one person can play a game at the same time. But to restrict it to entire libraries has always been, and remains, a load of bullshit. I say this as somewhat of a Steam fanboy, but damn it, it is.

          I had misread the library use, that is correct. It still seems like more than a useless feature. Rather than give you my passwords, against the terms of use, and give you access to all of my information, you can use a game and my info remains safe. Seems more than useless and is a safer way for users to do what they are already doing.

          Of course you'd need the internet for this, but both parties wouldn't need to be connected at the same time.

    All I want is for my wife to be able to play the games we already have installed on our computer under her own account so she can have her own saves and achievements.

      Same for me. Although I'd like to share games with friends interstate, at the very least I'd like to play the games she's purchased and vise versa. Sure, we could have a joint account but ... she kinda made her steam account a while ago and it has a really girly name and I want to be a tough strong manly man.

    Ahhhhh so close to what I need, yet so far. If I could play my girlfriend's copy of Skyrim while she's playing DOTA it'd be useful, but since we know each others' passwords and use each others' accounts when we want to play games if needed, it adds nothing.

      If you're on each others share list, you can both be logged into your own accounts and on top of this, your partners shared library. You just can't play the same game from the same library.
      So, you can play her Skyrim while she plays a different game!

        That's not true. You cannot play ANY game on steam while somebody else is playing one of your games. If you boot up a game the other person will be asked to quit.

          But if he owns DOTA and she owns Skyrim, can he play her Skyrim while she plays his DOTA?

            That's an interesting question, as it only indicates that you can't both have a game running from the one library. Presumably you can still use the store and access friendlists, groups, forums, etc. Assuming he doesn't actually try to boot one of his own games while she's playing his copy of Skyrim, I don't see why he can't use her copy of DOTA. That would be a pretty elegant workaround, actually.

            Last edited 12/09/13 10:03 am

            I would assume not. To play someone else's games you still have to log into your own account - which means the'll be booted from your library.

            I shouldn't have mentioned specific games, this is where everything derailed!

              Heh, I think it derailed the second they tried to emulate physical game trading based on a system Microsoft vaguely explained while trying to sell an unpopular console. =P

              People want it to mean ten keys for every game they buy, but ultimately I think you're spot on saying it doesn't really add anything more than trusting someone with your password.

          This makes me sad. :(
          I wish they were making it so that it was only restricting individual games being played, instead of the whole library. I guess having access to someone elses library is privilege enough?

      Simple. You play her version of Skyrim while you play her copy of Skyrim. You'll both be accessign different libraries, not the same one.

    Great news and cant wait. Now I need beta selection.

    Awesome I knew there was a reason why I still stuck with Xbox.....its hoping they bring this back

    Instill hope MS brings their sharing feature back in some form :( was an amazing offering but sadly they changed it due to the lack of inffomation about how it worked

    They still need to take one step further with this, they need to allow simultaneous playing of different games from the one account from the one IP.

    With a console, I can play one of the disc-based games I own at one end of the house, while my son plays another game I own at the other end of the house on another console also owned by me. So why shouldn't I be able to do this with Steam?

    Still pissed we lost this on Xbox One.

    Really hope it's brought back within the first year.

      The difference is that the Xbox One would require 24 hour check-ins while Steam would be always online. I don't know where I was going with this but it's Steam and not Microsoft so there won't be a shitstorm.

        Valve aren't saying "YOU MUST BE ALWAYS ONLINE TO USE THIS FEATURE GAAARGH GET THE INTERNET IT'S 2013", they're just giving us a feature and we can plainly see for ourselves that of course you need the internet, jeez guy, it's 2013. Same goes for various features the PS4 will use, like being able to use a mobile app to purchase a game and remotely power on your PS4 to start downloading it so it's ready when you get home.
        Microsoft's mistake was that they didn't pitch the full benefits of the features, they prefaced everything with how the new system would have certain limitations to work properly, which caused people to think they were losing something instead of gaining something.

          The features where there and Microsoft did show them off, they probably could have handled it better but when you have the likes of Angry Joe riling up the community with how evil and bad it all is without mentioning the positive features, it's too hard to compete with. The same could go with this if you had a large portion of the community start vlogging about how bad this DRM is without mentioning the positives.

          Yeah, they shoulda led with the benefits first, and everyone would have figured out the required internet part. But I wonder if they idiot MS employee's pre-announcement support of always online screwed things up. Because after that, one of the main things people wanted to know about the Xbone was if it required internet. People were so frothing over the mouth over this detail more than anything else. Sucks more MS.

        The main difference I see with that is most people expect the need for an internet connection while using a feature like this (and have no problem with it).
        When I'm not using this feature though I can play my steam games offline for as long as I want, Microsoft originally weren't giving that option.

    The important thing that people seem to keep missing with the Family Sharing plan on the XBox One was that one and only one other account apart from the owner can be "borrowing" a game at any time, meaning that even though you can register 10 people, in effect, only one other person is allowed to use it. Steam's offering is even more restrictive in that only one person at any time can be using the library, owner included, which makes it near worthless.

      I don't see how only letting one other person use your license at one time is bad. Why should they open it up to the full 10 people at one time? That would mean that I could buy halo 5 and 10 of my friends can use my 1 license to play it at the same time as long as I wasn't playing the game. That's 10 potential sales lost.

      Last edited 12/09/13 10:57 am

    Great news! Seems like they are just legitimising a practice many of their users already engage in - letting people log in to your account when you're not using it.

    It seems to be that you'd be able to use this in conjunction with offline mode to use the same library with at least two users; the owner in offline mode, and the borrower in online mode?

    So, all of my alts will be able to get the Steam Trading Cards for me to sell in the market? Okay, I won't object.

    Steam really seems to get it right these days. Good games, good prices, green light for indie games... Now this. Sorted.

    If it really is the whole library that you can't use while someone else is using it, then none of my friends are going to get much use out of this.

    I am fucking always playing my Steam games.

    I dunno, maybe they can play some of my stuff while I'm playing FFXIV or something.

    This isn't all that different from the current setup. You can set up Steam on multiple systems, but only one system can be logged into Steam and allow playing of those games at any given time.

    The new arrangement still only allows one person access to any given library at any given time, but also tracks achievements per-user.

    I have hundreds of games on Steam at the moment, but can only run one game at a time on one system at a time. That's more than a bit annoying - whenever I fire up my laptop and Steam starts, I have to pick which system Steam runs on. The new setup doesn't change that in any meaningful way.

    I suppose it does mean I can loan my game library to a friend if I expect to be off on holidays for a few weeks.

    This is grand news. But what if 2 friends want toaccess my account at the same time?

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