Valve has announced a new program that may sound kind of familiar if you’ve paid attention to the ups and downs of Microsoft’s next-gen console and services. Steam will be offering a “Family Sharing” plan for its users. Starting in mid-September, a limited beta for this program will begin where users will be able to grant access to their games libraries with up to 10 friends or family members. When access is shared, the person borrowing will have access to the entire game library including all DLC content the original owner had purchased. The borrower will be able to earn achievements for the borrowed games and have save files, but will not be able to purchase additional content for the borrowed games.

Now although the entire game library of the owner granting access is shared and not individual games, not ALL games will be available for sharing. Some games will run into third-party licensing issues which will limit the share functionality. The majority of games in your game library will more than likely still be shareable.

If this sounds familiar, that’s because this feature was announced earlier this year on the Xbox One. When the Xbox One was first announced and detailed, there was a family sharing plan that would allow you to share your game library with up to 10 “family members” or really any 10 friends. That feature, however, was tied to the “always online” feature the got a tremendous amount of bad press and caused Microsoft to pull a 180 on a lot of their policies. The family sharing program was only going to be possible if the games were all going to be treated as digital content and authenticated often enough to ensure that people were not renting games, installing them, and returning them, essentially netting a free game. After “always-online” was canned, this feature quietly had to die as well. There was still some hope in the future of being able to share your digital library though.

In any case, it would appear that Valve will be able to take the good idea and run with it since they have a platform that fits semi-perfectly into the licensing scheme to make it possible. They are able to authenticate your games and content regularly and achieve the “always-online” status without anyone batting an eye because it’s just been the standard for so long. Not that there is anything wrong with Steam, but they has won the love of consumers and operate on different standards than the console industry.

Be sure to check out the full press release below.

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Steam Announces Family Sharing
Coming Soon: Players who share computers can also share their Steam games

September 11, 2013 – Steam Family Sharing, a new service feature that allows close friends and family members to share their libraries of Steam games, is coming to Steam, a leading platform for the delivery and management of PC, Mac, and Linux games and software. The feature will become available next week, in limited beta on Steam.

Steam Family Sharing is designed for close friends and family members to play one another’s Steam games while each earning their own Steam achievements and storing their own saves and application data to the Steam cloud. It’s all enabled by authorizing a shared computer.

“Our customers have expressed a desire to share their digital games among friends and family members, just as current retail games, books, DVDs, and other physical media can be shared,” explained Anna Sweet of Valve. “Family Sharing was created in direct response to these user requests.”

Once a device is authorized, the lender’s library of Steam games becomes available for others on the machine to access, download, and play. Though simultaneous usage of an account’s library is not allowed, the lender may always access and play his games at any time. If he decides to start playing when a friend is borrowing one of his games, the friend will be given a few minutes to either purchase the game or quit playing.

For more information about Steam Family Sharing and the beta program, please visit http://store.steampowered.com/sharing/.

Source: Steam