Valve Announces Steam Family Sharing: Cool, But Limited

Today Valve announced Steam Family Sharing (SFS), a Steam-integrated feature that’ll allow up to 10 friends and/or family members to share the same Steam library. So, if you want your best buddy to have access to your entire game library, authorize his PC, and he’ll be able to play any of your games. Neat, and if this sounds similar to Microsoft’s announced-and-then-canceled ‘family sharing’ feature for Xbox One, it kind of is. “Don’t mind if we do!” Valve said.

But hang on a minute. While cool sounding, SFS comes with one pretty notable limitation: ‘simultaneous sharing’ doesn’t work, even if two people are playing different games from the same library. So, if I’m playing Skyrim, and you have access to my library, you can’t play Hotline Miami from my library at the same time–it’s all or nothing, as sharing is done per-library rather than per-game. Here are some quotes from the official FAQ page on this:

CAN I SHARE SPECIFIC GAMES, OR DO I HAVE TO SHARE MY WHOLE LIBRARY?
Libraries are shared and borrowed in their entirety.

CAN A FRIEND AND I SHARE A LIBRARY AND BOTH PLAY AT THE SAME TIME?
No, a shared library may only be accessed by one user at a time.

Thankfully, though, if you’re the owner of a shared library and it’s in use, you have boot-privileges:

WHEN I AUTHORIZE A DEVICE TO LEND MY LIBRARY TO OTHERS, DO I LIMIT MY OWN ABILITY TO ACCESS AND PLAY MY GAMES?
As the lender, you may always access and play your games at any time. If you decide to start playing when a friend is already playing one of your games, he/she will be given a few minutes to either purchase the game or quit playing.

Well, so what do we have here?

It’s a step in the right direction, that’s for sure–but the lack of the ability to share your library per-game is certainly worth noting. In its current form, you’d almost need to arrange “play dates” with friends, so as not to step on each others’ toes. It’d be perfect for, say, folks who live in different timezones: while your pal sleeps, you play.

Cruising some of the discussions on the group page, reaction seems mixed. There’s optimism, but also some fair questions being asked. But hey, it’s beta, it’s brand new, it’s free, you didn’t have this before on Steam, and again it’s a step in the right direction. Let’s give it a shot.

In any case, SFS will enter beta mid-September, and you can sign up for access by joining the group right over here.


Follow Mark Burnham on Twitter: @MarkBurnham

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5 Comments on Valve Announces Steam Family Sharing: Cool, But Limited

Aedelric

On September 11, 2013 at 8:07 pm

Origin offers limited refunds.

Steam steps up to offer limited game sharing.

So Origin, what have you got to one up Steam with? (Not that you ever could!)

AxΣtwin

On September 11, 2013 at 11:59 pm

Personally, I would have much rather seen Steam adapt the (now dead) Onlive’s unique feature to watch your friends play in realtime.

Ron Whitaker

On September 12, 2013 at 6:10 am

Hopefully Valve will expand this to allow more than one user to access games in a shared library at once. I understand that they’re limiting it to keep from losing large numbers of sales, but there are still some options.

Reduce the number of people that you can share with, but allow 2 (or more) to use the shared library (but not the same game) at once.

Allow the library owner to split games into blocks. Allow one game from each block to be played at a time.

Those are just a couple of ideas. Obviously, Valve has more insight into their numbers and what might work, but I do hope they move forward from here to enable their users to have even more control of the games they buy. It’s definitely a step in the right direction.

SweetPea

On September 12, 2013 at 7:14 am

Being able to play the same game at the same time will never happen. That would cut the sales of co-operative games in half.

Same library but not the same game? Still unlikely, they seem pretty sure about it.

lol

On September 14, 2013 at 3:26 am

Hmm, so Valve can’t release a game after years of development and now it can’t even get this right. And people still hate EA for ‘rushing’ stuff because they’re too poor or too lazy to buy a harddrive big enough for patches! looool