Valve has yet again shown their ability to listen to their customers and has announced a “Family Sharing” feature for their Steam digital distribution platform. Fans have been seeking a way to trade or loan games for ages, especially after Origin, EA’s digital distribution platform, announced their “Digital Return Policy.” The upcoming Steam Family Sharing system, which will enter beta in mid-September, allows users to share their libraries with others, but each library can only be used by one player at a time.
The shared libraries are linked to the computer, not another account, so if multiple people are sharing one physical computer they can all share games without any complication. If you want to share your games with a friend, it will link to that person’s computer, not their account, so they can only access the games while they are on that machine. For example; If I share my Steam library with my wife’s computer, she has access while on that PC. If she goes over to a friend’s house, or uses her laptop, she will not have access to my games unless I also share my library with those devices. You can share your game library with up to ten devices at a time, but again, only one person can play at a time so you might end up stepping on each other's toes.
I like the idea of this system. It allows people in close proximity to easily share games, but also allows you to lend games remotely. The security measures outlined on the announcement site sound adequate enough, because the owner will be able to take back his games at any time and will automatically kick everyone else off if they are using his library.
My only complaint is I wish that you could lend games individually, rather than your library as a whole. It would make it far more convenient and would more closely resemble “disc lending” (where you physically give a game disc to another), but I understand why Valve set it up the way it is. It significantly reduces the chance of abusing the system. Valve doesn’t want the Family Sharing system to enable people to trade games. I would love Steam to have a game reselling function, but I doubt it would ever happen.The Steam Family Sharing beta launches mid-September. How to sign up for the beta and the complete info can be found at the official site.