Steam to Allow Game Sharing Soon?

steam shared game library

Folks have been kind of annoyed at Microsoft and the company’s plans for how users will buy the games for its next system, the Xbox One. To summarize, you’re not buying a game—you’re buying a license for a game. That license will have all kinds of potential restrictions and caveats if you want to loan or borrow a game, or sell one or buy one used. But at the end of the day, it’s a way to take game ownership out of the realm of the physically owned disc, and closer to basic digital ownership.

For those of us who’ve grown up buying and trading physical media, the idea that we won’t literally OWN the game we buy is kind of a difficult concept to swallow, despite the fact that buying games digitally—and not being able to trade, lend, or resell them—has felt pretty normal. For whatever reason, there’s a division in our minds between physical and digital game buying, even though, essentially, it’s the same thing.

But it seems that the mega-popular, all-digital game retailer, Valve’s Steam, could soon bring game-sharing into the mix in much the same way that the Xbox One may allow users to share titles. Spotted by Kotaku, there’s code in the latest Steam client beta that suggests a forthcoming “Shared Game Library,” which could allow Steam users to designate some games for lending among their friends lists.

Apparently the library will only allow one user at a time to play a shared game, with notifications alerting users to who’s playing what, and when one user tries to play a game that’s already being played by someone else. It’s ironic that this service will likely be heralded by Steam fans as a fantastic addition to the service, while those same fans have been figuratively storming Microsoft’s gates with pitchforks and torches.

The reason, I think, is because Steam’s introduction of such a feature—if it happens—would feel more gradual than Microsoft’s. If Microsoft had implemented a shared game library among our digital libraries on the Xbox 360, then maybe we would be more forgiving about implementing shared game restrictions on physical media. It would feel like a more natural outgrowth of that policy. As it is, it feels like regulation and anti-consumer practices when, in reality, it might open up some interesting possibilities.

All that aside, I still think this video sums up my feelings about game sharing:

Your thoughts on game sharing?

[Via Eurogamer and Kotaku]

  1. From what I understand, while both Microsoft and Valve policy seem to be similar, there is a HUGE difference here, Valve is beginning to allow the sharing of the game license, as you said, digital, which so far was an absolute policy of no sharing whatsoever, the only company that allowed that was Sony that lets you install a digital game on up to 5 PS3 simultaneously. (Sure it should be 5 you own… but they don’t exact nag if you and a friend both play the game)

    You can compare them both, but it’s the exact opposite, Valve’s loosening its grip on DRM policies in a moment when Microsoft is trying to tighten theirs.

    • I don’t disagree with you, but the practical effect on users–at least in terms of sharing games–is similar in some respects. But yes, I think you’re right in your assessment, that the issue is the companies’ policy towards DRM and the way users can use what they pay for. Like I said, I think if Microsoft had established this direction in a more gradual way, people wouldn’t be AS upset with them. At the same time, I don’t think people are wrong to be upset with them either.

      • That is true, anyone who is familiar with distro services like Origin and Steam already made their peace with the fact that you are only getting a lifetime license and not the game itself, but even tho the change was made in a drastic way, it was clear, Microsoft’s on the other hand is still hella murky on what is what and the things that are clear, like you said, should’ve been more gradual.

        Still, I wish to remember this eight years from now and compare then if it was the downfall of the XBone or if it was just one of those bandwagons that lead nowhere.

  2. Its hardly ironic how Steam users are bashing MSoft for a feature they may be getting. Because they are completely different.

    MSofts policy seems to be more along the lines of you can only give it to a friend, once. Steam is, bearing the details from the article, more like the library picture you posted. You have your own library, and put whatever games you want on the shelf for people to borrow. And since its like a book in this analogy, only one person can borrow a book at a time and no one else can play it, even the owner, until its back in the library

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