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Valve rolling out game lending feature with Steam Family Sharing
Valve rolling out game lending feature with Steam Family Sharing
September 11, 2013 | By Kris Ligman

September 11, 2013 | By Kris Ligman
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    27 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing



Valve has announced it is rolling out a new game library lending service on its Steam platform, which will allow up to ten authorized devices to share the same library of games.

Dubbed Steam Family Sharing, the system is designed to accommodate asynchronous Steam library access across multiple shared computers. If two users attempt to play from the same library at the same time, the borrowing player will be prompted to either quit their current game or buy a separate copy.

"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," said Valve's Anna Sweet, in conjunction with the announcement. "Family Sharing was created in direct response to these user requests."

The Family Sharing feature does not extend to region-based restrictions or titles which require third-party keys or subscriptions. The feature is soon to enter limited beta.


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Comments


Mark Cooper
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As far as I can tell, from the Steam Family Sharing article on Valve's site, it looks as if only ONE computer can be authorised. I'd be happy to be wrong, though.

Scott Lavigne
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It specifically states that up to 10 devices can be authorized. Only one person can be playing a game at a time, though. It's really just so A) you don't have to give your brother your login info and B) they get to have their own achievements/saves (and so they can't access your saves).

Katy Smith
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Interesting! This was one of the features I was looking forward to on the Xbox One and I was disappointed that it was removed. Although reading the FAQ, it seems a little strict that the entire library is shut down if the library owner decides to start playing. I'll have to wait and see how it works once the beta starts!

Nathan Mates
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As someone with 300+ games, and some kids that'll get their own computers some time in the future, this sounds great.

Even better would be if
1) I can pick which game(s) they get to play - e.g. Bejeweled/Puzzle Quest titles are shared with the kids, but not Fallout
2) I can set time limits on gameplay (e.g. none to very limited on homework nights, more on weekends), and/or review their play

E Zachary Knight
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Hmmm. What is the point of being able to share games if you are not able to play different games at the same time? I can understand not being able to play the same game, but different games?

Maybe someone could enlighten me on this, but doesn't Steam let you install the client and all games from one account on multiple computers? If so, can you play different games on different computers from the same account?

Andrew Wallace
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You can't be logged in to the same account on multiple computers. Technically yes, you can already do what they're describing with offline mode, but then you're losing access to all online features.

Scott Lavigne
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The aim is to allow people to earn achievements on their own account, avoid sharing login info, and keep each others' saves isolated, I think.

Kujel s
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@Scott: Then why not simply implement a profile system?

Scott Lavigne
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With this system, you have separate accounts (and thus login info). The idea is one account can be signed on at Computer A and a second account on Computer B. They will see the same library, but only one can utilize it at a time. With a profile system, you have to share login info.

Andrei Cojocaru
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Sadly it looks like you lose access to your entire games library, which makes the feature worse than useless.

Dane MacMahon
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This method would actually be worse than what my wife and I currently do, which is just keep her laptop's Steam in offline mode. Then she can play all her Popcap games whenever she wants and it doesn't impact my gaming a bit.

I guess this is better for internet friends who don't actually live together though. I wonder why that is seen as something they want to promote, however.

In any case this better not come with further restrictions to offline mode to make it work. I barely tolerate Steam DRM as it is.

James Yee
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I think this works more for my Military buddies who go offline for long periods of time and want to share their games with me. Going the other direction though would just being logged in with my account kick them offline with my games? Would playing Planetside 2 kick them off even though it's a F2P game it's still "in my library" and hence could knock them out of Half life 2.

So many problems to work out but I think it's worth testing and sending feedback to try and get it the way we want. :)

Dane MacMahon
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I would assume this does not function at all if either person is in offline mode, otherwise there would be little point in putting any restrictions on it.

Kyle Redd
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Yeah, I agree this may actually make being a Steam user worse instead of better. It doesn't seem to work the way Valve has described it unless offline mode is disabled for the user whose account is being shared.

That might be fine at first, since you could just decline to use the game sharing service and keep your Steam account as it is, but I suspect this is a move by Valve to get people used to the idea of being always online. Then down the road when enough users have gotten used to the idea, they'll disable offline mode for everyone permanently, whether you're a part of the sharing program or not.

Dane MacMahon
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Offline mode going away or being much more heavily restricted is my worst fear with Steam. If they ever do that I'm not sure I could continue to support the service.

Shea Rutsatz
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I may be missing something, but whats the difference between this and simply having a shared password to an account?

With this you can't play games at the same time or the borrower will be kicked off, so being logged in isn't even useful for the borrower. Same as being logged in on multiple computers (I've got Steam at work and home), it kicks off one of the logins. Only difference I can imagine is that the borrow wouldn't have the ability to buy more games.

Scott Lavigne
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Well, it lets them push you to buy the game (like you said), let's you earn achievements separately, and keeps saves isolated from each other (I can't affect your saves and you can't affect mine). You can chat separately too, I guess. Definitely doesn't seem like anything to shout about.

Karl Schmidt
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To everyone wondering how this is better than offline more or sharing a password, it's right on the front of the page if you actually click on the link:

"Steam Family Sharing allows close friends and family members to play one another's games while earning their own Steam achievements and saving their own game progress to the Steam cloud."

Dane MacMahon
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@ Karl

I really doubt my wife would trade the ability to play Peggle whenever she wants for achievements she couldn't care less about. I guess others might differ.

Karl Schmidt
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I guess I should have written "different" instead of "better" than offline mode. Others probably care, considering Steam is primarily a hardcore gaming service where achievements are a standard.

Dane MacMahon
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I just think losing real unfettered access to the game is a pretty massive issue. I'm sure some care enough about achievements to prefer the restrictions, but... well, I hope it's a small number. Maybe that's my old school bias showing.

Karl Schmidt
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Who said anything about "losing real unfettered access to the game"? Where was offline mode even mentioned in this announcement?

Maria Jayne
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Well it seems pretty straight forward to me, the "sharing" aspect is more a way for your friends and family to demo a game they don't own. Obviously there needs to be a reason why you would rather purchase a second copy of the game instead of just having 10 people on your account who buy nothing and play your 2-300 games for free.

The fact they get their own steam cloud saves and achievements is also a gentle draw toward owning the game yourself, since presumably they carry over. The fact only one person can play the game at a time is also another influence on convincing your friends or family perhaps they should just purchase the game, if they actually enjoy playing it.

It's a feature, not a necessity, like all features you can choose to benefit from it or ignore it. I don't imagine everyone will see the benefit in doing it, especially if you want to play with your friends, then again, if you want to do that, why wouldn't you just buy two copies of the game anyway? not like steam games are regularly overpriced, they're on sale often enough too.

I guess I'm too damn old, really surprised by all the negativity about this. Free shit is becoming an entitlement, you can complain about it when it isn't convenient enough.

Dane MacMahon
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I didn't mean to imply there was no use for it, only that family sharing in the same house made no sense to me because the current method is better for all involved. For sharing amongst interns friends it makes a lot of sense, I'm just not sure why that is something Valve focused on. I'm sure they have their reasons though. I'd never claim to be as smart as them on these issues.

Changes to offline mode is a real concern, however. Also I wonder if this might have been better executed as a simple trial of every game on Steam, let you play say an hour or 90 minutes of every game on the service before being presented with a sale page.

Kyle Redd
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@Maria

Please don't throw the tired 'entitled gamers' nonsense without considering where we are versus where we came from.

10 years ago I could share every game I owned with whoever I wanted, as many times as I wanted, without any restrictions whatsoever. In the ensuing period, gamers have had to give up that all of that freedom to the point where now many (if not most) of the games we buy are permanently bonded to us in some way and can't be shared with anyone for any reason. I would hardly call it 'entitlement' if we are now very slowly getting some of that freedom back and want to raise questions about how it is being implemented.

Maria Jayne
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Ok lets consider where we are Kyle.

10 years ago you had to get up and drive/walk to the store, pay extra for retailer overheads and drive/walk back home with your game. Assuming it was in stock.

10 years ago you could mail order a game and wait for the postal service to deliver it, maybe on time, maybe late.

10 years ago if there was an issue with your game that needed patching, you had to search for a means to patch it manually.

10 years ago if you cracked or lost your disk you lose your game. No free re-downloads.

10 years ago if you wanted to play your games on multiple machines you needed to have the disc to install it, everywhere you went and then often needed that disc to play it when you were there anyway.

10 years ago the idea of your saves copying to cloud storage and transferring between those machines automatically was voodoo.

10 years ago you had to hope the copy protection wouldn't hate your machine configuration and that the cd key could be translated within the first ten attempts...is that an 0 or an O? is that an S or an 5?

Steam does all this for you now and it does it in the same amount of time it took me to write this. It doesn't charge you for any of it and it is still cheaper, if you think 10 years ago was so good, we have nothing to discuss.

Anthony Eaton
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10 years people had patience and waiting a couple of days to get to the shop or have a game delivered wasn't an issue. I like to go into shops and browse the, now pitiful, selection of PC games. Itís nice to interact with people in the physical world too!

10 years ago I would have come home from the shop installed the game from disk and been up and running fairly quickly. Now I purchase a game on steam and have to wait hours while gigabytes of data are downloaded. Similarly if I wanted to play a game at a friendís house I would previously taken the game on disk and installed it, now I have to log into steam and download the gigabytes of data again.

10 years ago I had full control over which patches were applied to my games and when. I have lost count of the number of times I have been unable to play a game because it is downloading 100s MBs of update. More recently itís been the 'need to update to a more efficient format' which will lock out your entire steam library.

In 30+ years of gaming I have never cracked/damaged/lost a CD/DVD, must admit I have had a dodgy floppy or two though.

I could go on (and on, and on) but the reality is that steam has made many things convenient, but it has problems as well. I have lost could if the number of times I have has to 'validate a game cache' or had to reinstall steam to get it working again, and while I am sorting out these problems I do not have access to any of the 300+ games I have on steam.

This is the problem that most people have with the sharing facility. Long before steam came up with their sharing proposal I was unhappy with the fact that I can only be running games from one PC at a time (ignoring offline mode). I can't think of anything other product with similar restrictions. If you bought a CD and was told that you could not play any other CD in your collection (whether from the same band, label, publisher) whilst listening to the first you think someone was having a joke, but that is what we have with steam.

Ignore the fact that you cannot resell any game that you already own I just want to be able to play the games that I have paid for as and when I want to. I don't expect to run multiple copies of games that I have one copy of, just the ability to have a friend or family member sitting at another PC in my house play a different game. This doesn't seem unreasonable as I have, after all, paid for the privilege.


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