Steam Family Sharing launches, lets any trusted friend play your entire library for free

Callum Tennent
March 3, 2014

One of PC gaming’s most common complaints has just become a thing of the past. A problem which once seemed so embedded, so endemic of the nature of the platform itself, has been completely overcome. Steam users – you may now share games with one another.

Steam Family Sharing allows you to enable trusted friends to access titles within your library, in their entirety and for zero charge. The ‘borrower’ can even save their own progress to the cloud and unlock their own achievements. If you wish to access a friend’s game, you simply need to navigate to their library, right click on the title of interest, and ‘request access’.

It’s a tremendous step forward for an industry constantly fighting an uphill battle against consoles. This measure certainly makes the medium a lot more accessible, and with very few conditions or drawbacks.

Of the few restrictions in place, they all seem reasonable enough. For example, two users may not play the same title at the same time. So if you plan on playing Counter Strike: Global Offensive or Payday 2 alongside your buddy using just the one game, you’re going to have to rethink your strategy. If the game’s owner wants to start playing whilst a friend is in-game, the borrower will receive a prompt informing them they have a few minutes to either wrap things up or purchase the full title themselves.

Similarly, titles requiring third-party subscriptions, keys or memberships cannot be shared. This mainly effects MMOs and the like, so if you wanted to dip your toe into the intimidating and enormous world of EVE Online or anything of the like, you’ll have to cough up the cash yourself.

There is also a cap on the number of approvable users and computers per title, but it’s surprisingly reasonable. Valve have set a limit of ten devices at a time, with five chosen accounts then permitted across those devices. Users can add and remove permitted accounts as and when they please.

One of the more interesting stipulations is that should you and your friend both own a title, but only one of you own that title’s extra downloadable content, it may not be shared. Once more, you’ll simply have to decide for yourself whether or not said DLC is worth purchasing.

More predictably, you must be connected to the internet at all times whilst borrowing a title, and any region-locked titles remain region-locked. Should your ‘friend’ decide to cheat or hack whilst playing your game and get busted then you’ll face punishment too, but most likely only in the form of a ban from Family Sharing.

Surely most gamers will agree though, these are all fair laws to abide by for an entirely gratis service. Steam Family Sharing is now out of open beta and fully available to the gaming masses, and it is very, very exciting.


About the Author

Callum Tennent

International playboy/tech journalist.

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