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Steam Family Sharing to let users share their games with others

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Steam Family Sharing, an upcoming service from Valve, will allow Steam users to share their games with friends and family, the company announced today.

The service is designed to allow "close friends and family members" to share a library of games while Steam tracks achievements and save data for each individual user, said Valve in a press release.

"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," said Valve's Anna Sweet. "Family Sharing was created in direct response to these user requests."

According to Valve's FAQ for Steam Family Sharing, a user can authorize his or her entire Steam library — it's all or nothing, since individual games can't be selected — for use by friends and family on up to 10 different computers. That includes games and their add-on content, although friends won't be able to purchase additional DLC for a game they don't own.

Not every game will support Steam Family Sharing, and regional restrictions will still exist: You wouldn't be able to authorize an Australian friend to play the North American version of Saints Row 4, for example. A shared library can only be accessed by one user at a time, so even a user on a previously authorized device will be locked out if someone else is already playing. The lender retains priority access; if another user is playing and the lender logs on, the user will be given "a few minutes" to buy the game for him or herself, or quit playing.

Valve will begin running a limited beta for Steam Family Sharing next week; Steam users can join the Family Sharing group in the Steam Community to express their interest in participating.