Valve announced Family Sharing for Steam on September 11, 2013 and it seemed like a dream come true for hundreds of PC Gamers around the world. Finally one could share the games one owned with family and friends without having that annoying cousin ruin your stats in your favorite games. Since selling of used games is still not allowed on Steam, this feature seems to come close to fulfilling that demand.
So what is Family Sharing All about? Well, Steam will now let you share your entire library with any other Steam accounts on up to 10 Authorized Machines. Each account can have their individual Stats and Achievements. A Borrower Account (Borrower) also gets access to all DLCs owned by the Sharer’s Account (Sharer) for eligible games. The borrower can also download eligible games from the Sharer on an Authorized Machine. So it’s free games for everybody, right? Wrong.
Sounds too good to be true?
Of Course, There is the Fine Print. Family Sharing is intended for Families gaming on the same Machine and its implementation is great for that purpose. However, one must note that you share Entire Libraries rather than individual games. And there are some games that are not eligible for family sharing due to region restrictions, subscriptions, third party issues or requiring alternate game codes like GFWL, Uplay and RSGC among others. Items in Free-to-play games also do not get shared. Region locked Games can’t be shared in the regions where distribution is forbidden. Also, a Borrower can’t purchase DLC for the borrowed games and must rely on the Sharer to do so, if they wish to play it.
The shared games do not come with additional perks like Trading Card drops or booster drops that the owner gets. If the borrower does commit offenses that attract the attention of Steam Authorities, both the Borrower and the Sharer can lose their Sharing privileges and might even be VAC banned. Requesting an account to share games requires the account to already have a game installed on the target Machine. One must simply start playing the game from another account to send a Share Request email. The Sharer then must authorize the target Machine to enable Family Sharing.
The major kicker comes from the sharing of the Entire Libraries which means that any time a Sharer starts playing a game from their Library, the Borrower can’t play any game from that shared Library. If they are already in a borrowed game, they are given a 5 minute grace period to either exit the game or buy it to continue playing. The Game launched by the Sharer need not be the same as the one being played by the borrower, since Steam then puts the Entire Shared library off limits.
Lastly, there is the Authorization Procedure for Family Sharing. To Authorize a machine, one must log in to the Sharer Account on that machine, Authorize Steam guard Clearance for that Machine and then enable Family Sharing from the option in Settings. So if you thought you could freely share libraries with your online friends, think again. How much do you trust them to give them near complete access to your Steam account?
What good is this for then?
Family Sharing is, as the name implies, meant for Families. You save on buying multiple copies of a game for each steam account in your household. You will still need to buy multiple copies if you want to play online co-op with your family or have impatient family members who must complete a game as soon as they can. You can also share with your local friends and you could pool money to buy games and share them amongst the group. Have some annoying cousins over who want to play your games? Well, let them log in with their own account on your PC and play.
If you do wish to share your library with online friends, you should also ask them to share theirs back. And it might be a good idea to share with folks who have invested just as much as you have in their Steam accounts and have no history of VAC bans. This can be extremely useful to play the libraries of dormant accounts of friends who can’t game due to their circumstances as then one’s session is unlikely to be interrupted abruptly.
Family Sharing is still in beta and it might be changed by the time it releases to public. You can read the FAQ in the Official Group Here. You can join that group if you wish for the chance to be included in the Beta.