Steam Family Sharing gets a complete overhaul

Mike Powers
Steam Family Sharing gets a complete overhaul

What just happened? Around a decade ago, Valve introduced a generous feature to Steam that enabled friends and family members to share each other’s game libraries. This week, the company revealed plans to significantly revamp the functionality, removing some critical restrictions and combining it with Steam’s parental controls.

Steam Beta Client users can now try a new feature called Steam Families. Comprising game-sharing and content control functionality, it replaces and builds upon Steam Family Sharing and Steam Family View.

Up to six accounts can join a family, defined as either adult or child users. Each member can keep a separate Steam library, achievements, and save progress, but everyone’s library is available for everyone else to play.

Possibly the biggest change from the old setup concerns who can play which games simultaneously. Before, only one member could access the shared library at a time, so the original owner could boot a guest out of a session whenever they started a game.

The update allows multiple family members to play different titles simultaneously. However, they can’t play the same game concurrently unless there are multiple purchases of that title within the family – one for each person who wants to play. The same rule applies to DLC, which isn’t shared with multiple copies. Another significant alteration is that shared titles can now be played offline.

Adult members can control which games children play and activate various other safety features. A detailed report system lets adults monitor a child’s playtime, set limits, and approve requests for extensions. Platform features like the store, community, and friends chat can also be gated. Moreover, adults can approve and pay for purchases of games that enter a child’s account.

To try Steam Families, navigate to Settings > Interface > Client Beta Participation and select “Steam Family Beta” from the dropdown menu. Then, head to Account details > Family Management. From there, users can create a family and start inviting members. Members who leave can immediately rejoin a family but must wait one year before joining or starting a new family.

As before, not all games support family sharing. Developers have the final say, but titles requiring third-party keys, accounts, or subscriptions are excluded. Furthermore, DLC for free-to-play games cannot be shared, and each shared title must still support the player’s operating system.

It is unclear how long the Steam Families beta will last, but the platform’s original family-sharing functionality went public after six months in beta.

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