> News > PC

Valve introduces upgraded Steam Families game sharing

Steam Families allows you to share games with up to five family members.
steam logo on background

Valve is upgrading its family game sharing features, streamlining them into a new system named Steam Families. While currently only available via the Steam Beta Client, the feature will soon roll out to every Steam user, allowing them to invite up to five family members to share their games, and better manage access.

In Steam Families, you’ll be able to allocate users ‘adult’ or ‘child’ status and then determine who can play which games at any time. When you allow a family member access to your account, they can view all games in your library – although you can control which games can be accessed via parental controls. A secondary feature also now allows adults to determine which games children can purchase.

Some games are not eligible for family sharing, based on the choices of developers or other technical limitations. For eligible games, only one player can be playing that game at a time. While everyone who’s part of the family can play any game in a library, they must be different games – or players in a family must own multiple copies.

The practical example given by Valve is this: “Let’s say that you are in a family with four members and that you own a copy of Portal 2 and a copy of Half-Life. At any time, any one member can play Portal 2 and another can play Half-Life. If two of you would like to play Portal 2 at the same time, someone else in the family will need to purchase a copy of the game.”

Read: Steam Spring Sale 2024: The best deals for PC games

You are able to leave a Steam Family at any time, but you won’t be able to join a new one until one year later – so you’ll need to be picky about which Family you join. The temptation here is to share games with friends, which is admirable, but you will need to consider the practicality of joining or leaving a Steam Family in future.

There is also the matter that Valve will be closely monitoring Steam Families to ensure it’s being used for its intended purpose.

“While we know that families come in many shapes and sizes, Steam Families is intended for a household of up to six close family members,” Valve says. “To that end, as we monitor the usage of this feature, we may adjust the requirements for participating in a Steam Family or the number of members over time to keep usage in line with this intent.”

Beyond overall improvements and tweaks to UI, it doesn’t seem like Steam Families will change much about existing game sharing controls, but the process should now be much simpler for all users – adults and children (and friends). Those keen to check out the streamlined version of the feature can now explore it via the Steam Beta Client, or read about it on the Steam News blog.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.