Valve today announced Steam Family Sharing, an all-new service feature that will allow friends and family to share their libraries of Steam games. The feature will be supported on PC, Mac, and Linux and will become available next week through a "limited" beta.
According to Valve, Steam Family Sharing is designed to let family members and friends play one another's Steam games. Individual members can earn their own achievements and keep their own saves and application data intact via the Steam cloud.
"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," Valve's Anna Sweet said in a statement. "Family Sharing was created in direct response to these user requests."
When a user authorizes their device to allow sharing, the lender's library of Steam games will become available for others to access, download, and play. Though simultaneous usage of an account is prohibited, the lender is always able to play their games at any time. If the player decides to start playing while a friend is borrowing a game, the friend will be given a "few minutes" to purchase the game or quit.
Gamers interested in joining the Family Sharing beta can sign up through the Family Sharing group on the Steam community. The beta is expected to begin in about a week, when 1,000 accounts will be given access. Those chosen will be notified via email.
Users can authorize their Steam account for sharing on up to 10 devices at a time. Users can't share specific games, as libraries are shared and borrowed in their entirety, Valve said. In addition, not all Steam games can be shared, the company said. These include games that require a third-party key, account, or subscription.
Concerning downloadable content, a borrower will have access to the lender's DLC, but borrowers cannot purchase DLC for the base game that they do not own. In addition, in-game items cannot be shared between accounts.
Valve also addressed the issue of cheating or fraud while a friend or family member is playing their game. The company said Family Sharing privileges may be revoked in the case of a borrower being caught cheating or perpetrating fraud.
"We recommend you only authorize familiar computers you know to be secure," Valve said.
Valve is the first digital ecosystem to allow trading. Microsoft had planned to be first out of the gate with its own Family Sharing plan for the Xbox One, but it scrapped this plan in June when it reversed a number of its digital policies.
Still, this plan is not gone forever. Senior Xbox director Albert Penello told GameSpot at PAX Prime that the Family Sharing plan will return.
"I get a lot of mails saying, 'God, please bring back the family sharing.' We'd love to figure out how to bring that back. I still think it was a good idea," Penello said at the time. "Maybe it was a little too soon for some people, but I still think there were a lot of good ideas in there. And we'll bring it back when the time is right."