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?