Steam has just announced a new way for users to lend friends and family members access to their full Steam libraries. The Steam Family Sharing program will allow authorized borrowers to access your full Steam library to download and play.
The program will let you share your existing Steam game library with up to 10 other accounts. Once authorized, users will be able to install and play any game from the borrowed account, with dedicated Steam Cloud storage space for the borrower's save games. Only one Steam user can play a shared game at once, however, and the preference will always be given to the original account holder.
“As the lender, you may always access and play your games at any time,” according to the Steam Family Sharing FAQ. “If you decide to start playing when a friend is already playing one of your games, he/she will be given a few minutes to either purchase the game or quit playing.
Games that an additional third-party key, account, or subscription will not be available for sharing with friends and family, according to the FAQ. Sharing will include access to the library owner's original DLC, but will prevent the borrower from purchasing content for the base game. Additionally, in-game items can not be shared between the accounts.
If this ends up being released to the wider Steam population, it may bring back something that we PC gamers had thought long forgotten: the ability to lend and borrow games. It will also be a boon for families with multiple gamers sharing a single computer: different Steam accounts will be able to save their progress to the Steam cloud and earn their own achievements while playing borrowed games.
If you'd like to be considered for the beta program, join the Steam Family Sharing community page . In mid-September, a thousand members of the sharing group will be selected and notified by email that they are now free to borrow and lend. Check out Steam's full Family Sharing FAQ .