As a way of celebrating its 10th anniversary, Valve revealed Family Sharing, a new service on Steam that will let friends and family to share their libraries of games while earning their own achievements and storing their own save files.
There are some limitations though. In order to lent your personal library, you need to authorize a device (a Steam account can be shared with up to 10 devices.) Once this step has been completed, the other person has access to your library and can download and play games. Using the same account simultaneously isn’t allowed and the lender always has priority. So if you login to your Steam account while a friend is using it, the friend will be given a few minutes to quit or purchase the game.
It’s impossible to share one specific game. Once you’ve authorized another account, the other person has access to the full library with the exception of games that are part of subscriptions or those that require keys. It’s worth mentioning that if one person engages in cheating or fraud, the Family Sharing service will be revoked for both, so Valve recommends that you share accounts with people you know well.
Regarding DLC, the borrower has access to all downloadable content, but borrowers won’t be able to buy DLC if they don’t have the core game. Also, in-game items can’t be shared.
In a way, the Family Sharing feature tries to emulate how people used to share their physical media. But as some people have already pointed out, the program seems remarkably similar to the one Microsoft had planned for the Xbox One. When Microsoft reversed some digital policies, the family sharing functionality of the Xbox One didn’t make the cut.
There are still many questions regarding the Family Sharing service on Steam and some of them won’t be answered until it launches. The program will become available next week in beta form for PC, Mac and Linux, though only 1,000 people will gain access at first. Those interested in joining the beta, should sing up through the Family Sharing group.
For more information about Family Sharing, read this FAQ on Valve’s official site.