Valve has announced plans to introduce the ability to share your Steam library with family and friends, but it's worth taking the time to read the fine-print before getting too excited.
Valve is to allow Steam users to share their games library across up to ten devices, allowing friends and family access for free.
Apparently taking a leaf out of Microsoft's since-ditched plans to allow Xbox One games to be shared across multiple consoles, Valve has announced Steam Family Sharing. As the name implies, Steam Family Sharing allows users to share their purchased Steam games with family members as well as non-related friends - without either party needing to part with any extra cash.
The system will be compatible with PC, Mac and Linux Steam clients, and allows for a given library to be shared to up to ten devices including the device belonging to the original owner. When shared, all library content will be accessible except in the case of region-restricted titles crossing international boarders.
Initially, enthusiasm for the announcement was high - but as Valve updated its frequently asked questions page regarding the service, the fine-print began to cast a pall over proceedings. First, while the Family Sharing platform isn't restricted to actual family members, it is
restricted to whole-library lending: if your sister, cousin, father or friend is currently playing a game borrowed from your library, you will be unable to play any game yourself - regardless of whether it's the game they're playing or not.
You won't be locked out of your Steam library altogether, of course: if you decide you want to play but one of your friends is already in-game, you can choose to kick them out - at which point they'll be given a few minutes to find a save point before being booted from the game, unless they pony up the cash to buy a copy for themselves.
Other restrictions include downloadable content - which, logically enough, can't be purchased for games you don't actually own, although if the owner has purchased DLC you'll get access during the sharing process - and any titles which were registered on but not purchased through Steam or which require the entry of a registration code.
The service is due to launch in beta format next week, with 1,000 members of the specifically-created Steam Family Sharing group
to be invited followed by increasing numbers until the service is rolled out to all Steam users.