All In The: Steam Family Sharing Available To Everyone

By Nathan Grayson on March 3rd, 2014 at 10:00 am.

Sharing is caring / it can be videogames

When I first heard about Steam Family Sharing, I – like any rational, functional adult human – assumed it involved temporarily swapping families with another Steam user. Imagine my surprise (and, let’s face it, horror) when it turned out that I’d be able to share my game library with other human beings. Disgusting! Unnatural! An abomination! Steam libraries are sacred property, and also I really don’t want people trying to comprehend why I own Petz Dogz 2, Secret of the Magic Crystal, and the entire Postal series. Down that path lies only madness. But here we are. Steam Family Sharing is a thing, and it’s now available to all Steam users.

If you need a quick refresher on how it all works, here’s the Steam Family Sharing page. The long and short of it?

“Steam Family Library Sharing allows family members and their guests to play one another’s games while earning their own Steam achievements and saving their own game progress to the Steam Cloud. It’s all enabled by authorizing shared computers and users.”

You can authorize up to five other organisms to sift through your library and learn all of your secrets. They must be online to play your games, but if you drop in and start playing the same game, they’ll get booted after a brief period of time. This means that Valve has automated the process of being passive-aggressive to your family! What revolutionary advance will they think of next?

Of course, that means no multiplayer if only one of you owns a game, which is unfortunate. Also, it’s rather inconvenient to set up if you’re not in the same location as the person you’re sharing with. You can’t share unless both accounts in question have logged into in a specific machine. The obvious intent, then, really is for this feature to be kept in the family. It’s still a pretty admirable feature overall, though. I mean, we’re talking about the ability to play entire games for (functionally) free. So thanks, Valve. Thalve.

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92 Comments »

  1. Zallgrin says:

    Aww yes. Finally no more switching back and forth between several accounts.

  2. Skeletor68 says:

    I got early access and it has been great. My younger brother has only recently moved out from my parents’ and bought a new laptop. It’s been great being able to share the library with him.

    • chronoshag says:

      Here’s my question – is it anywhere near as buggy as it used to be? I got into the early access for it, and the second or third person I invited to share my library with had 4 of the 5 total games on his account mislisted as not being on *his* account, but on *my* account (Thus making the system not let him play his purchased games whenever I was online). Each of the games it mislisted was one that I already owned on my account; the only one that wasn’t was the game he owned that I didn’t.

      When I heard of this, I thought that, perhaps, deactivating his machine would force the games to relist as being on his account; instead, it just removed them from his account entirely. Apparently, the system got confused, and thought that he never owned his games, and that they were just things I was sharing with him.

      One or two weeks later, and with some back and forth from customer support, he got all his games back, but I haven’t attempted to inflict that upon anyone else since.

  3. Donners says:

    Meh, I prefer just sharing the account with one person being offline. Until they allow people to play different games at the same time, I see no attraction in the system. I’d have thought that could be introduced for people on the same network – obviously it would be too easy to abuse if it went beyond that.

    • fritten says:

      me and my husband have both been in the beta and it was/is possible to play shared games while being offline in steam. thus, we were able to play the same game at the same time. <3 the only downside is not being able to play daily challenges or use other online-features while being logged into steam offline.

      • Serenegoose says:

        They patched that.

        • Gotem says:

          still, I’ve found that there are many games that dont’ require steam to run

        • HothMonster says:

          Only the secondary account needs to be on. The main account can be offline and both can play. Kind of silly but works.

    • phuzz says:

      I think Valve’s opinion is that if you want to play the same game in two places at the same time, you should buy two copies. Those heartless bastards!

      • soundofvictory says:

        Until they allow people to play different games at the same time, I see no attraction in the system.

        [Gender neutral third person other] wasn’t talking about playing the same game eat the same time. I agree with you though on that account. Sharing games is awesome, but in traditional games it only works that one person can be playing one game at one time, so the digital version working that way also makes sense. But it doesn’t work that way.

      • Devan says:

        @phuzz
        Yeah, better work on your reading comprehension before breaking out the sarcasm. Letting two family members play different games at the same time is very reasonable as that’s what you’d be able to do with a physical game library. Without that, this is more like a feature that reduces the incidence of account-sharing among family members, which is nice and all but much more limited in usefulness.

      • fish99 says:

        I’m guessing you missed the word ‘different’. People aren’t asking to play the same game.

  4. madeofsquares says:

    +20 points for Look Around You reference.

    • spacedyemeerkat says:

      Yup, well played, Nathan! Wonder how, as an American, what he thought of Look Around You, assuming he hasn’t just picked up the meme? For the best effect, I would imagine you have to be of a certain age and schooled in the British system!

      • hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

        The US has its share of awful classroom videos as well; I went through the American schooling system and felt right at home with Look Around You, and the humor definitely translates well. There are a few references that I know I missed, but for the most part, it’s nothing but laughs.

        • KarlaGWarren says:

          just as Tiffany responded I’m startled that anybody able to get paid $5207 in a few weeks on the internet . hop over to this website …………………………http://zeejob.com

  5. Gnoupi says:

    I quite liked the original petz games, back in the last millenium.
    Particularly the “weird” (and superior) version: Oddballz (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oddballz)

    • defunct says:

      I remember that! I think I still have the CD somewhere, too. Although I don’t use CDs any more. Fun times.

    • Mags says:

      Me too. In fact I might go dig one out later and give it an install…

      Out of interest, are the games currently running around under the name on Steam worthy succesors or hideous abominations?

  6. Sancezzio says:

    I remember when Microsoft tried to do a similar thing with the XBOX ONE. Everyone hated it. I bet that since Valve are doing it, everyone will love it!

    • Monteef says:

      Nobody hated the XBONE’s family sharing. They hated the awful DRM that was packaged in with it.

      • Pazguato says:

        This.

      • Malcolm says:

        My memory of the proposed Xbox One DRM is hazy, but how did it differ significantly from Steam? I seem to remember a big fuss about not being able to resell your game, and having to authenticate online – but these are not particularly different to Steam.

        • malkav11 says:

          A big difference is that these were enforced at a system level on everything. Although it may feel like it at times, Steam is not yet the only source of PC games and most games do not force you to install Steam if you purchase them elsewhere, although the number of games which do certainly seems to be increasing. Finally, Steam itself does not force the use of Steam’s DRM, it’s just that most people publishing games to Steam use it.

        • dorn says:

          There’s a huge difference.

          1) Steam is optional for the buyer.
          2) Steam is optional for the developer.
          3) Steam does not require DRM.

          • HadToLogin says:

            1) Xbox is optional for buyer (have fun playing not-pirated Steamworks game without Steam)
            2) Xbox is optional for developer (nobody forces you to make Xbox games, unless you work for MS, but it’s same on PC where you don’t need to put your games on Steam, unless you’re working for Valve)
            3) This point is kinda worse for Xbox with it’s ideas like “log every 24 hours” and bunch of other stuff, especially since Valve apparently finally fixed their offline mode to work when you lost internet overnight. On the other hand, most “big games” and lots of indies require Steam to be working to start.

        • Baines says:

          The difference is that one company is named Valve and the other is named Microsoft.

          From what I recall, Microsoft’s scuttled Xbox One plan was less restrictive than Valve’s Steam sharing. Microsoft drew so much hate because while such a plan was a step forward for PC gamers using DRM stores like Steam, it was a loss of consumer rights for console gamers who could already freely pass around game discs.

          (Remember that the Microsoft plan worked in part because purchased games would be tied to consoles. Microsoft was trying to do for consoles what Valve and others did to PC gaming many years ago, so that even if you bought a physical copy of a game, what you were really buying was an activation code and any physical disc was just a way to skip downloading a game online.)

      • Stellar Duck says:

        Which was pretty similar to Steam.

        I bet Microsoft were a bit baffled at the vitriol thrown at them when they could see people fawning over Gaben and Steam.

        • LionsPhil says:

          Microsoft forgot to couple it to a killer game to get everyone to swallow it as the norm.

          • Bull0 says:

            It’s not like MS were going to start offering the broad-spectrum deep discounts we get on Steam, either.

          • HadToLogin says:

            Actually, they just had some late-February sales with games like Red Dead Redemption, Mortal Kombat 9 or Dark Souls with -75%. Payday 2 or Skyrim with -66%, State of Decay or Saints Row 4 with -50%.

    • Psymon says:

      People were unhappy that they could no longer resell their games.
      This feature was collateral damage.

      • Moraven says:

        I did not understand why it had to be an either/or type of thing. They have said they would like to revisit it, but no details right now.

        People wanted to be able to use their discs, share them and resell them. They did not want to be forced to be online once every 24 hours.

        But they also wanted the option to buy a digital copy that they could share with friends and family. Would give people more incentive to buy digital and less games on the used market. Great value if you could share the game, which we still do not have fully yet with Steam.

    • Screamer says:

      They where unhappy about loosing rights to the games they buy which we already lost long time ago. What we get with Family Sharing is a little bit of those rights back.

    • Scelous says:

      Am I missing something? Are you talking about how Microsoft forced you to authenticate your system daily online or else you couldn’t use your console? I don’t have to do that with Steam. I don’t see anyone mentioning that. That’s what made me decide Microsoft was made up of worthless pigs, and why I’ll never buy another Microsoft console again (and I preferred Microsoft to Sony).

    • wengart says:

      This is less a Valve is perfect and Microsoft is a the devil issue than a PC gamers and console gamers are different.

      We’ve had digital DRM and digital downloads for years at this point, and don’t bat an eye when downloading the lastest AAA game from Steam. While in console land not owning a physical copy is still something of a novelty.

  7. gschmidl says:

    I thought they got booted if you started playing ANY game — at least that’s how I read it:

    Can two users share a library and both play at the same time?
    No, a shared library may only be accessed by one user at a time.

    • Wang Tang says:

      Yes, you share the WHOLE library, so the above sentence should read:

      They must be online to play your games, but if you drop in and start playing the same ANY game, they’ll get booted after a brief period of time.

      • GeeKay says:

        I don’t interpret it as that. I understand it that if 2 of your friends were accessing the shared library at the same time, this would become an issue.

        • gschmidl says:

          It says two users, not two users other than the owner, though.

          • Fellhuhn says:

            Only one can access it. Whoever that is. Doesn’t matter. Still a nice feature. Best not rate the feature by the “game sharing” but by the “not sharing the rest” part.

  8. VanDerSpar says:

    Secret of the Magic Crystals is truly amazing. No reason to be ashamed of that, Nathan. We’re quite a large community having your back there.

  9. Serenegoose says:

    From the page:

    Can two users share a library and both play at the same time?
    No, a shared library may only be accessed by one user at a time.

    So, still kinda useless, and a marketing coup over very little. If you and a family member you don’t dislike both had a console, you could both play a game from your collection on each console. Not the same game, but any two separate games. Steam says ‘if those games came from the same shelf, you can’t play them’. So what’s the big deal?

    • Bury The Hammer says:

      Don’t have to share your password, save games, friends, or achievements. So you can let your little brother play Bioshock without ruining your save or posting “LOL I SUCK COCKS” to everyone on your friends list.

    • Moraven says:

      Right now its more, one console hardware in the same house, separate save and achievement profiles like Sony and MS have had for years since the PS3/360. Steam is catching up!

  10. hideinlight says:

    Is it possible to play a family member’s Library, while that family member plays your library, at the same time?

    Instead of lending out a game, basically lend out each others entire collection?

    • Fellhuhn says:

      Yes. You lend out your whole library (except some games with extra DRM and most DLC) and can’t use your account in the meantime (or you would kick him). But remember that you don’t share anything else that is connected to your account.

    • revan says:

      Affirmative. You share your whole library with him and he/she shares it with you. That includes DLC as well. It’s as if the game is on your account. You get your achievements, your stats, everything. Some games though do not appear. Mostly those with extra layer of DRM. I’d guess that this applies to Ubisoft games using Uplay, but I don’t have any of those so can’t comment.

  11. CookPassBabtridge says:

    How is this different to just giving your family member your login details and just authorising their machine – something you could already do? You’d still boot them if you logged in. Doesn’t seem any different?

    • Fellhuhn says:

      The difference is that you don’t share:
      - cloud saves
      - friends
      - achievements
      - steam wallet
      - credit card data
      - inventory
      - card drops
      - DLC (maybe in the future)

      So you won’t be bankrupt and find a whole library of Sims games after letting your little sister play.

      • CookPassBabtridge says:

        Awww :) Good points though, thanks

        • Fellhuhn says:

          But perhaps you have a very very trusty friend who lives in another timezone or always plays at different times. Then you can share your account that way and play and test your games. Steam won’t block that (yet).

          • HothMonster says:

            Technically account sharing is against TOS and they could close your account for doing that. Wouldn’t be hard to spot either if you are logging in from IPs halfway across the world without time to actual move your body halfway around the world.

            Though you are right, they do not currently monitor for this. Still more of a risk than I would personally take with all my games.

      • Psymon says:

        Well said.
        This family sharing feature is like letting someone else sign in to your steam account to access your games, without all the risk of abusing your account.

        Worth noting that if someone uses a cheat while playing your game through family sharing, it’s bans all round.

        • Moraven says:

          They have stepped back from banning the host account. Only the cheating account should be getting banned, not the person sharing the title.

          • diamondmx says:

            I think @Psymon is misrepresenting Valve’s comment on the matter. I believe they said they’d ban the cheating account, reserving the right to ban both if the activity looked suspicious (such as several accounts cheating through the same main account).

            I don’t want to shovel through the disorganised mess that was the comment thread on Steam Discussions in which this was stated, but I ~believe~ that was the impression I got from their comment.

          • HothMonster says:

            That makes sense. If they never ban the host account it would be easy for cheaters to just always use a second account to cheat, let it get banned make a new secondary account and keep on cheating without risk of losing their game. At some point they have to punish the host.

            Banning the host on first offense would be a little egregious though considering how stupid little brothers tend to be.

          • Psymon says:

            If that’s the case, I apologise.
            I was going by what I read here.
            http://store.steampowered.com/sharing/

          • HothMonster says:

            “Your Family Library Sharing privileges MAY BE revoked and your account MAY also be VAC banned if your library is used by others to conduct cheating or fraud.”

            Emphasis mine. So it seems in line with what diamond is saying. They reserve the right and probably will if it seems to be a pattern but probably won’t for a first offense.

          • fish99 says:

            To be fair Hoth, that doesn’t say they will or won’t, it says they may, so the risk is there.

          • HothMonster says:

            Right. I agree, I’m just saying the official wording mixed with diamonds comment makes sense. I wasn’t attempting to claim my interpretation was an official statement. “May” is purposefully ambiguous.

      • HadToLogin says:

        DLCs are kinda weird stuff: “A guest will have access to the lender’s DLC, but only if the guest doesn’t also own the base game.”

      • revan says:

        You share DLC.

    • LTK says:

      Another crucial difference is that you don’t get booted out of your account (and any game you might have been playing) when the other person logs in to play a game. The steam client remains operational, but you get a heads-up that the other person wants to play so you’re able to save your game and such. This is way more convenient than having to enter your password again every time the other person has accessed the account. Depending on who you share with, the likelihood of both people wanting to play at the same time can be pretty low. I’ve never gotten a notification that my dad wants to play something while I’m in a Steam game.

  12. cpy says:

    So if i play 7 days to die and my “family” member will not be able to play civilization 5 from my library while both being online?

    • Fellhuhn says:

      Nope. But they can’t play Civ 5 when you are offline. So it is a bonus.

      • revan says:

        What do you mean they can’t play the game when you are offline? Offline and online status doesn’t matter. You can play the games from another account regardless of their status. Only time you can’t play games from their library is if they are playing something. Otherwise you are free to play whatever you want, whenever you want.

        • cpy says:

          That is just stupid as hell, then i can just give my account login to kids and it will be the same. Such retarded option only from valve, well EA nazis will never allow it anyway, so at least valve tried?

          • Skiddywinks says:

            It is not the same at all. Valve’s method protects everything on your account (wallet, friends list, saves etc).

            But if you really want, by all means give out your login information to people instead. That should go much better.

          • revan says:

            You misunderstand. No one has access to your account, only your library. You personal data, credit card info, Steam wallet, achievements, cloud saves, everything is separate. Only thing other person sees is the selection of games from your library in their library, under special tab. And if you login into your account and wish to play, they are notified to shut down the game and given time to save their game. You, of course, launch the game instantaneously, like no one is using your library. Much better than sharing your Steam login info.

          • cpy says:

            If you can’t trust your own kids, then what the hell is wrong with this world?

  13. Sheng-ji says:

    It’s a bit weird that there are literally no controls as to what parts of your library your family can access – I would want to be able to choose what games are available to them

    • Qazi says:

      I wonder how Family View interacts with a shared library http://store.steampowered.com/parental/set ?
      Of course, if you have to go into their Account and set it up their side… then this only works in a Guardian>Ward relationship. Can’t imagine my sister, whom I’m currently sharing with, letting me barge in and dictate what she can and can’t play via a Family PIN system on *her* account.

      • DanMan says:

        Not at all AFAIK, which is a problem. If you want to share your library with minors (nephew, …), you have no remote control over which games he can access and which not.

  14. revan says:

    Been part of the beta from the beginning and I must say that this is a great feature. I can’t imagine Steam without it anymore. I’ve been sharing my library with a best friend and it’s awesome that we can buy different games each and have access to everything both of us buy.

  15. Tei says:

    Sugestion: If you will not really use it, don’t activate it, its very (VERY) intrusive.

  16. Love Albatross says:

    A question for you, RPS: does this work on your media accounts to allow access to all games, or does it only permit sharing of titles you’ve actually purchased?

  17. malkav11 says:

    The requirement that both accounts have logged on from a single machine makes this a feature that is both nearly useless if used as intended and will encourage people to share account login details in a highly unsafe way. So, yay, I guess.

  18. Mungrul says:

    How does this work with DLC?
    Or games that once downloaded, don’t necessarily require Steam to run?

    • HothMonster says:

      Games that don’t need Steam to run can still be run without Steam by the second account after being downloaded. I can see them trying to change this in the future though.

      DLC is shared unless the second account already has the base game. So if I have Game X and you have Game X and all its DLC I will not get access to the DLC when you share with me. If I do not have Game X I will get the game and all the DLC you own when you share with me.

  19. SMGreer says:

    This is appreciated as I’ve been wanting a means of letting my girlfriend play my game’s without erasing/overwriting my saves and without purchasing another copy of the game.

    So this is nice.

  20. SuicideKing says:

    TeamViewer 8.

  21. Randeth says:

    Unless they changed it so that I can still be logged in and playing my other games, while my son plays something I have but he doesn’t, this is still pointless. As it was in the Beta, I was essentially locked out of my Steam account if my son was “sharing” one of my games. Who ever thought that would be useful?

  22. Darth Gangrel says:

    Well, that’s nice for people who have gamer friends and family, but my only two Steam friends live in Canada so it’s out of the question sharing with them. I’m busy trying to decrease my backlog, but with my current rate the polar ice cap decreases much faster. Adding someone else’s entire library for me to play isn’t a good thing to do.

    • whoCares says:

      Why is it that many people think of their Gameslist as some burdened backlog that they have to tidy up? Just play games as you want it. Complaining about the backlog is like being invited to Disneyland and complaining that you already have too many Rolercoasters to ride.

      • Darth Gangrel says:

        I see it both as a privilege and a burden that I have so many great games yet to play. It really is a ridiculous first country problem, having too many games to play, but the fact remains that adding more games wouldn’t benefit me. So, it’s nice for people who have gamer friends/family and time to play new games, but I don’t have any of that. It might be silly and pointless to state that, but this is the internet so I’m within my right to write pointless statements.

  23. J_C says:

    Thank God! Yes! Seriously, this is one of the best features of Steam. This will make using Steam much more convenient for me and my brother.

  24. Chorltonwheelie says:

    After a bit of faffing I set this up for my 10year old lad who’s just built his first gaming rig (#proud).

    It’s great. I can decide which titles he can see/play (not Outlast but yay for Dirt3 and Portal).
    Seems only fair he can have a go at titles I’ve not played for ages but paid for.
    Good move Valve. I still love you baby.

    • The Random One says:

      So you can set up which games you share and which you don’t? I had the impression from this thread that you couldn’t.