Valve, the development studio behind the popular PC gaming market Steam, this week announced that it will soon introduce a "Family Sharing" feature into Steam. The feature will be tested in a limited beta starting next week, which can (possibly) be entered by joining the Family Sharing group on Steam. One thousand people from the Family Sharing group will be chosen for the beta.
Steam Family Sharing will allow people sharing a single computer to share their games across multiple Steam accounts. For example, a married couple would have to buy Skyrim only once for each of them to play the game separately, earning Steam trading cards and achievements on their separate accounts.
The feature is enabled through each Steam account, with account holders enabling the feature for a specific PC in their account settings. Each Steam account may share its entire library on up to 10 different PCs, though each account's library may be accessed by only one account at a time. Region restrictions still apply, and publishers other than Valve can still block access to games through their own account services.
“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 Anna Sweet, an employee at Valve. “Family Sharing was created in direct response to these user requests.”
Sharing games among accounts is, by nature of the medium, already a feature of home consoles. Microsoft nixed an ambitious (and vague) plan to allow remote family sharing of digital titles on its upcoming Xbox One console when it also did away with a plan for intrusive Xbox One DRM. However, the company has announced that digital titles will be shared among different accounts on a single console. Steam's new Family Sharing would put the digital service on par with this type of policy, perhaps introducing yet another feature that would be necessary for the long-rumored Steambox console.