Just as Steam hits its tenth anniversary as a digital games distributer, Valve, the parent company, announces a brand new feature that could really change the digital landscape in gaming; family sharing.
Steam Family Sharing will allow close friends and family members to share games by authorizing a shared computer. Although the games will be shared, each player will be able to earn their own Steam achievements and save their game progress to the Steam cloud.
The service can be used with up to 10 steam enabled devices including the host pc. However, some games will not be available for this feature, such as any game with a third party authentication or sign on separate from Steam. This will include many games in the Massive Multiplayer Online genre that require specific registration.
Patrick Klepek, from GiantBomb.com spoke on Steam’s idea in an article on their website. “The idea of sharing your digital games became a topic of conversation earlier this year as Microsoft flirted with the idea for Xbox One. As a result of its massive turnaround on DRM policies, however, these potentially progressive and interesting ideas were kicked down the road.”
Valve has broached an interesting and compelling topic in the gaming industry dealing with how Digital Rights Management (DRM) is used, ways where regulations can be relaxed, and ways piracy can be stopped.. Valve has already detailed how it’s planning on stopping piracy in a very long and technical way, which can be simplified through a scenario.
To illustrate a scenario, if your brother wants to play a game that you own in your library, they will request access from the games page in your steam library through a handy button. You can then authorize this action and they are now able to play the game. However, should you stop whatever it is you’re doing in real life and want to play any game in your steam library, including one that the 2nd party is playing, Steam will give the player notice they are about to be booted from the game and offer them a chance to purchase the game to continue playing.
This is a happy middle ground for DRM, content can be shared between users, but only like a disc can be shared in real life. Stopping the play of another user when the owner of the game is online is a brilliant move by Valve. By stopping the game for the player borrowing, this system almost acts like a long-form demo of a game. Since few people will be able to play games without interruptions from the owner, this will entice players to purchase their own copy of the game. Valve has made a masterful stroke in furthering their brand and disguising it in a family friendly way.