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Valve is planning to add a “Family Sharing” option to its Steam digital gaming service.

“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 business development manager Anna Sweet said in a statement. “Family Sharing was created in direct response to these user requests.”

Users can authorize any device, and then gamers on that computer can begin playing the original account-holder’s games, but Valve will not permit simultaneous use. If the original account holder gets online, the borrower will have a few minutes to either purchase the game or quit playing. That’s true even if the lender and borrower are playing different games.

The Family Sharing service is currently in beta on Steam. Valve posted answers to frequently asked questions on its website and is taking requests for beta access.


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Steam will limit your Family Sharing to 10 authorized devices at a time. You also have to share your entire library, but some Steam games will not work with sharing due to “technical limitations,” according to Valve’s FAQ.

This is a huge feature for Steam. While gamers on consoles have always had the option to lend physical games to their friends and family, no major gaming service offered a way to lend digital games. Microsoft was actually planning on implementing a feature similar to this for the Xbox One, but it had to reverse that policy because gamers weren’t happy that it would have restricted traditional used-games sales and lending.

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