Valve introduces Steam Families to allow members to share their libraries simultaneously

Mar 19, 2024

Valve has announced a new feature for its gaming platform, it's called Steam Families. It finally lets you play games from other family members' libraries while they are playing another game.

How does Steam Families work?

A Steam Family can have up to 6 family members. It allows members to share all games owned by the family. Once you create a Steam Family, a new collection will appear in the games list section. The ownership of the games that are being shared remains with the purchaser. But, new purchases will automatically appear in the collection.

Steam Families

(Image Courtesy: Valve/Steam)

How is Steam Family different from Steam Family Sharing

Steam Family Sharing has been available for a long time, since 2013. While it allowed family members to play games from each other's libraries, it had one major flaw. If a family member was playing a game from your library, you couldn't play any game.

That changes now, Steam Families removes this restriction. You can now play a family member's game while they are playing something else. For example, let's say you want to play Baldur's Gate 3, while your kid wants to play Palworld, both of you can play the games even if the games belong to the same account.

Steam Family Sharing

(Image Courtesy: Valve/Steam)

The new feature also allows members to create their own saved games, earn Steam achievements individually. This also applies to the Steam Workshop if you like to use mods. And, you don't even have to be online to share the library anymore, as long as the game supports Family Sharing. If your family owns multiple copies of a game, multiple members will be able to play the game simultaneously. Games that require an additional third-party key, account, or subscription in order to play cannot be shared between accounts. You can find more details about games that are not eligible for Steam Family here.

Does this work anywhere?

You are probably wondering whether you can share your games with users that don't live in the same house? Steam says that while Family Sharing can work for users that are not accessing Steam from the same location, due to technical limitations, the new feature may encounter issues that Steam cannot support. This might sound confusing, but according to reports from users, Steam Family only allows adding members who are in the same Country, so if you and your relatives are living in different regions, you will not be able to share games with each other.

How to create a Steam Family and add/remove members

Steam Families is available today in the Steam Beta Client. You can create and manage Steam Families from the Steam Client on your PC, web browser or the mobile app on your phone. Head to the Settings > Interface > Client Beta Participation > Steam Family Beta to opt-in to the beta program.

To create a Steam Family, head to the Account Details (under your profile name) > Family Management section > Create a Family. Give your family a name, select "Invite a Member", and add the members you want. You will be prompted to choose whether members should be added as an adult or a child.

Adult members have rights to manage invites and apply account restrictions, whereas children have to follow rules set by the parental controls. These controls include playtime limits, game access, etc. You can find the "Enable Parental controls" option under the Account Settings > Family Management > Manage.

Adults can leave a Steam Family whenever they want, but children cannot, they must be removed by an adult in the group, or submit a request to Steam Support. Each slot in a Steam Family (6 members) has a cooldown of 1 year, before you can add a new member. Let's say you accidentally removed a member from your family, or they left by mistake, they can rejoin the Steam Family without waiting for the cooldown.

Adult members can remove, i.e. kick any member out of the Steam Family.

Steam Family Parental Controls and Child Purchase Requests

Adult members can use the Parental Controls to manage access to games, and monitor their children's gaming activities from anywhere. They can allow/disallow access to specific features such as the Steam Store, Community, Chat, set playtime limits, view playtime reports, approve requests for additional playtime or access to a feature, as well as manage the account recovery options for the children's accounts.

Adult members can set limitations on which games each child in the family can access, so you can use this to set age-appropriate access to games, and hide games that you feel are not suitable for kids.

Children can request an adult in the family to pay for their shopping cart. Once the request is sent, an adult member can approve it, and pay for the purchase using their mobile device or email. The approved games will be added directly to the child's account.

Bans apply across family

Steam's FAQ says that if a family member gets banned for cheating while they were playing a game that you own, you will also be banned in that game. I have to say, that is a funny way to address that question, Valve knows that people would claim "hey it wasn't me, it was my kid brother".

This is an excellent move by Steam, I've bought multiple copies of games for my family several times just because I wanted to play games in my library while they were gaming. Now, I don't have to do that, buy a game once and share it with the family. It does make me wonder whether this would affect game sales, but it's probably not going to have a significant impact for developers. I mean, let's say you own a console or two, you may buy 1 physical copy of a game and share it with your roommate or between members of the household. Steam Families is kind of similar to it. And if two members want to play the same game simultaneously, well, you will need to buy it twice. It is worth noting that Developers can opt out of Steam Family Sharing, if they don't want their game to be shared by families.

You can find games that support Family Sharing on this page. Steam Families is more of a wallet-friendly solution for consumers, which is a rare thing in today's market.

Valve introduces Steam Families to allow members to share their libraries simultaneously
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Valve introduces Steam Families to allow members to share their libraries simultaneously
Steam improves Family Sharing by allowing users to share their libraries simultaneously.
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  1. Tachy said on March 19, 2024 at 2:28 pm

    Aww. I was excited for a moment.

    I was hoping we could play the same game at the same time.

    We do this already actually but the purchaser has to take steam offline, not steams offline mode.

    1. Ashwin said on March 20, 2024 at 4:01 am

      I guess they have that rule in place to protect game sales, else, people might buy 1 copy of a new game and share it with 5 members. You can bypass this rule if a game does not have DRM. e.g. games made by Sony, CDPR, Larian Studios, Paradox Interactive, etc. Just run the game using the EXE, and you can both play it, albeit without co-op mode.

      One more thing I noticed is that DLCs are not shared between members if 2 people own the same game.

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