Steam Families opens up game libraries for sharing, with a few caveats


Side-by-side view of Steam library and shared Family games

Valve

PC gaming is often regarded as a solitary pursuit, but the advent of PC gaming handhelds like the Steam Deck has made sharing favorite titles far easier—at least unofficially. Valve’s Steam platform, which previously didn’t have too much in the way of sharing, has embraced this hand-off reality with Steam Families.

Steam Families, now in beta, replaces both the more limited Steam Family Sharing and Steam Family View. You invite up to five family members (for a six-person total family), share games with them (if developers allow it), and then family members can see their family library games in a subsection of their list. Anyone can play a shared game and keep their own save files and achievements.

Steam Families is, on the surface, more permissive than Family Sharing. You can play a game from a family member’s library even if they’re already online and playing something else. Multiple members of a Steam Family can play the same game at the same time, although the total number of people playing must match the total number of purchased copies among household members. All games are automatically shared with all other family members, though parents can use parental controls to limit games, playtime, and tune other features.

Along with restrictions, Steam Families makes it easier for a child to request an adult in the same family to purchase a game for them. No more handing over a credit card or repeated gift card purchases. And anyone can mark a game as “private” to prohibit sharing, which seems like a good idea.

Caveats? For sure. Among them:

  • It’s intended for “a household of “close family members,” and Steam will monitor usage and may adjust the rules over time.
  • You must wait one year from joining a previous family to join a new one
  • A family member “slot” cannot be replaced until one year later
  • Games that require a third-party account or subscription cannot be shared
  • Cheating bans apply to games as a whole, so families lose access
  • Free DLC, free-to-play games with purchased DLC, games restricted by region, and any game already excluded from Family Sharing cannot be shared.

There are even more complications, particularly around DLC, in the Steam Families FAQ.

Setting up Steam Families starts in the Steam client’s Interface section by choosing “Steam Family Beta” from the “Client Beta Participation” setting.

Listing image by Valve



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