Valve is looking to address one of its biggest complaints, the inability to share and borrow PC games through its digital distribution platform Steam. Under the newly announced program, Steam Family Sharing, you'll be able to share and borrow digital PC games just like you would physical disks.
According to Valve, Steam will allow you to grant friends access to your library of games and vice versa. Once authorization is granted, the person "borrowing" the game will be able to play it fully, earning their own Steam achievements and saving their own game progress to the Steam cloud. The catch is that while someone is borrowing your game, you will be unable to play any other Steam games in your library. If you do decide to play a game, the person sharing your library will get a warning to either purchase the game or quit, and everything goes back to the rightful owner. Think of it like someone actually borrowing your physical computer and you taking it back whenever you want.
With Steam being strictly digital, users are obviously unable to share physical disks. So this is Valve's way of competing with consoles in which sharing game disks is easy.
"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," explained Valve's Anna Sweet. "Family Sharing was created in direct response to these user requests."
And ya know what? It sounds awfully similar to the Family Sharing plan Microsoft had in place with the Xbox One which it later removed due to fan backlash over the Xbox One's DRM policy. I suppose console users would rather share physical games than digital so they caused an uproar forcing Microsoft to remove its digital features, Family Sharing included (though they have said it could come back one day). Who knows, perhaps if this thing catches on with Steam users, console owners won't be so afraid of the idea of an all-digital library and embrace what the Xbox One could've been.
A Steam account may authorize Family Sharing on up to 10 devices at a given time and, due to technical limitations, some Steam games may be unavailable for sharing (like games that require an additional third-party key, account, or subscription).
Beta testing for the new Family Sharing Program will being in mid-September, but in the meantime Valve is taking requests from those who want to participate.