September 16, 2013
Steam Rolls Out Family Sharing
There is an old saying that the family that plays together stays together, but in the age of PC games the family that plays together often needs to buy multiple copies and this can add up fast. With PC games costing $50+ each, to have just a few copies can be rather expensive.
However, game developer Valve announced that its Steam Family Sharing would soon launch in beta. Valve, the maker of such games as Counter-Strike and Left 4 Dead, had launched Steam as an online-based verification and download service for computer games including those for the PC, Mac and Linux.
The company announced that the Steam Family Sharing would allow close friends and family members to share their game libraries on the service. The feature is now coming out in limited beta form.
As noted, this option is so that close friends and family members could play one another’s Steam games while each earning their own Steam achievements and storing their own saves and other application data to the Steam cloud. This is enabled by authorizing a shared computer.
“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, Valve spokesperson in a statement. “Family Sharing was created in direct response to these user requests.”
Valve further added that when a friend or relative is “borrowing” the games, he/she would be given a few minutes to quit playing or purchase a game when the owner opts to start playing. This is probably good for those who are more casual gamers and for games that have quick matches and game sessions.
The Family Sharing Beta’s FAQ also clarifies a few points that suggest this is hardly the best option for families. For one thing not all Steam games can be shared. The FAQ noted, “For example, titles that require an additional third-party key, account, or subscription in order to play cannot be shared among friends and family.”
Thus those games produced and sold by Valve (Counter-Strike and Left 4 Dead) could be shared, but games from 2K Games like Civilization V might not be shareable. Here is where it gets more confusing according to the FAQ adds that “a shared library may only be accessed by one user at a time.”
This suggests that it is only actually a slight improvement from having all the family members log into a single account to access a game or the library.
This is very disappointing because it still limits the access of games. Steam is great for preventing piracy but it makes it hard for families to share games – something that this reporter had hoped would be remedied by the Family Sharing.
I understand that if my wife and I both want to play Civilization V we should each be required to pay for a copy. The problem is that if Civilization V is on the same library account as Rome II: Total War, then only one of us can play either game. In other words, if my wife decides to play Civ V on the account, I still can’t play Rome II.
So much for actual sharing.
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