Screenshot by Destructoid

The Steam Family Sharing system for games is now much, much better

Bet you didn't see this one coming.

Valve’s original iteration of the Steam Family Sharing system has been up and running for over 10 years now, and its long-overdue upgrade is finally on the docket. Indeed, Valve has just announced the all-new Steam Families system, which delivers substantial upgrades to Family Sharing in key areas.

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As per Valve’s own blog post, Steam Families is about to replace the aging Family Sharing feature for good. Not immediately, mind, as Families is currently only available via the Beta version of Steam, but the full replacement is on its way.

Steam Families is a combination of both Steam Family Sharing and Steam Family View systems with a bunch of other goodies thrown in for good measure. With support for up to 6 family members total, anyone using Families will be able to share their games more easily than ever before, with offline availability and streamlined license availability at long last.

Image via Valve

Valve’s Steam Families feature is now available in beta

Valve’s announcement is loaded with information, but the most important bits and bobs are the following:

  • Steam Families is retaining all of Family Sharing’s key features, such as separate achievements, save games, and other player-generated content
  • The game license owner can continue playing other games while one of their licenses is being shared with a family member
  • Users accessing shared games can now play them offline

As those who have used Family Sharing before will know, getting your library locked out whenever someone else is playing one of your games was a huge pain. Further, you couldn’t even ask them to go offline, as they’d lose all access to your licenses upon doing so. The transition from Family Sharing to Families does away with both of these problems in one fell swoop, making the whole system far more usable and streamlined than it’s ever been before.

Valve does point out that “Family Sharing is a feature that developers may opt their games out of for technical or other reasons at any time,” but the same did apply to the previous iteration of the system. Notably, games such as the recent Call of Duty titles were excluded from availability in this regard, and the same will continue to be the case as Valve transitions over to Families in full. The good news, though, is that there are tens of thousands of games that support the system already.

Steam Families also comes with an upgraded suite of parental controls, which includes playtime overviews and more, which is bound to prove extremely useful to parents looking to onboard their children into the gaming hobby.

As it currently stands, however, there are some caveats to the new Families system in place. Notably, if you’re sharing your game library with your brother and he gets banned for cheating, you too will be banned for the same reason. The game owner and the offending user are both being punished by the ban, with other family members not being impacted. Further, beta users have reported that all family members need to be in the same country for the system to work.

In these regards, Families is a downgrade, and Valve will need to find a solution for users living close to border territories for sure. Edge cases aside, though, Steam Families is poised to be a huge usability improvement for legitimate use cases, and with offline availability and non-punishing game license lockouts in place, most users should find it a welcome upgrade indeed.

Steam Families is currently accessible via the Steam Beta client, though it will be coming to the baseline build of the service in due time.


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Filip Galekovic
A lifetime gamer and writer, Filip has successfully made a career out of combining the two just in time for the bot-driven AI revolution to come into its own.