Is Steam’s Family Sharing program good for the industry?

Earlier this week, Valve announced a bold new program for Steam: a Family Sharing program that allows users to share their entire library of digital games with up to 10 authorized users. If it sounds familiar, that's because it is quite similar to what Microsoft was planning with the Xbox One — until they received massive backlash from consumers forcing them to reverse their policies.

Aside from the consumer point of view, you also have developers and publishers. How will this sort of thing affect them?

So the big question this week is, obviously, whether or not Steam's Family Sharing program is good for the gaming industry?

Matt Liebl Follow on Twitter

matt liebl pictureHad you asked me this question earlier in the week, I'd have said good for gamers and bad for developers. However, after reading the reaction from Supergiant Games' studio director, I'm not so sure it's bad for anyone.

It's obviously great for gamers. Do I really need to explain why? I'd rather focus on the developer/publisher point of view which is that this thing could really impact sales. But then I took into account what Supergiant Games' Amir Rao said:

"We're not worried about the possibility of lost sales due to the Family Sharing program in the same way we're not worried about potential lost sales due to piracy (Bastion has no DRM and Transistor won't either) because we ultimately care about creating a good experience for the paying customer."

Give the gamers a solid game and they'll buy it, regardless if they can play it from a friend's library. Perhaps sharing a game could even convince someone on the fence to purchase their own version. I think some of the larger publishers will need a bit more convincing, but this could be great for everyone. What I'm most intrigued with is if this will convince Microsoft to bring back it's former policy and whether or not gamers will be more open to it.

Verdict: Could be great for developers and publishers as well.

Mike Splechta Follow on Twitter

Mike Splechta

It's intriguing. Sure, the Xbox One had something similar, though Microsoft never fully revealed what it would entail, but I'd like to picture that it would function in a very similar fashion to Steam's recently announced plan.

It's a rather genius idea that further promotes the ideology that an all-digital future can indeed be realistic. There are a few major hurdles that are holding the gamer generation from going all digital. Steam is knocking down at least one of those hurdles by allowing you to share your library, no matter the size, with up to 10 family members or friends. And while it seems like it would put a burden on the player who owns all of these titles, it still allows him to be the master of his collection by never locking him out of his own library, even when other people are playing.

In a way, it revolutionizes the way digital downloads are perceived, and Microsoft, Sony and even EA (Origin) should take notes, especially if they want gamers to embrace the digital market and eventually learn to stray away from simply physical copies. If Steam could change our minds with amazing deals through multiple sales per year and now this, there is no reason the other big companies can't follow suit.

Verdict: An amazing first step towards an accepted digital future.

Lance Liebl Follow on Twitter

Lance Liebl

How could it be viewed as anything but great for gamers? You get digital games at a dramatically lower price and can share them with an authorized user on your friends list. It's Microsoft's Family Sharing plan, but without the silly requirements. The always-online DRM policy and 24-hour check-ins is what killed an awesome idea from Microsoft, and rightfully so.

But Valve is the white knight of gaming. The golden boy. Valve can do no wrong. This Family Sharing program is coming at a perfect time, too – right before the next-gen consoles come out. And to those saying that it's going to kill consoles: you need to all chill out. There's a huge group out there that prefer gaming on consoles, and they still get to do the same thing as Steam's Family Sharing, just with physical copies. If anything, console gamers will see the popularity of Steam's Family Sharing, get jealous, and then Microsoft can implement it again, but this time the right way.

Verdict: Same great games at a lower price, and you can share them!

Andrew Clouther Follow on Twitter

Andrew Clouther

Of course Steam Family Sharing is a good idea. I fail to see how something like this can hurt Steam users; developers sure, but not users. If your goal is to make as much money as possible then it hurts. If you’re goal is to have as many people play your game as possible, it’s wonderful. Certain people will play a game fully while other users will use this system to demo/buy games.

If you don’t like it as a user, don’t use it. If you want to share your library with a select group of people, then do it. I like the fact that Valve is keeping this an option and not shoving it down the throats of those who aren't interested.

Sure you can't use your library of games when letting one of your friends or families use it, but I don’t see this as a big deal as others are making it out to be. Don’t share your games when you want to use them. Or share them and take back ownership when you want to play. The Family Sharing plan is a luxury for you and your friends and is only as much of a burden as you allow it to be.

It’s been many years since PC gamer have had the opportunity to share games with one another; this is a bold step in a great direction. With PCs utilizing console controllers, having the potential for always having the best graphics, can upgrade whenever, and now with game sharing – why even buy consoles? Exclusives are a fair answer, but PC definitely still has the most.

Verdit: Of course.

Tatiana Morris Follow on Twitter

Tatiana Morris

Even if you aren't a very charitable person it's hard to see how Steam's Family Sharing program could be seen as a negative. Sure, some people (mainly devs) may have some inhibitions when it comes to people accessing games for free(-ish, someone did buy it after all). The reality is that this program will allow people to have access to games that otherwise wouldn't have been accessible. 

The program itself kicks the individual that's borrowing from your library off when you log into your account. This opens the door for your friend, who will inevitably become fed up with getting booted, to go out and buy the game that they were playing. You don't need a strong argument for saying why Family Sharing is good, because well…What isn't good about it?

Verdict: What isn't good about it?

Do you agree that Steam's Family Sharing Program is great for the industry?