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Valve Software, the Bellevue, Wash.-based company behind the digital gaming storefront Steam, announced a new feature called Steam Families which allows small groups of Steam users to share access to computer games in their libraries. This new feature is intended to replace current features such as Steam Family Sharing and Steam Family View, offering a single menu that covers both game sharing and parental controls. Users can create a Steam Family and designate up to five other users as members, managing their permissions across web browsers, the standalone Steam client, or the Steam mobile app.

Within a Steam Family, members have access to the games in all other family members’ libraries that are compatible with the program. This means that a user can play games from other family members’ libraries even if the original owner is online at the time. However, in order for two users to play the same game simultaneously, multiple copies of the game across various libraries are still required. Well over half of the 100,000 individual games available on Steam can be shared with other users via Steam Families, including popular titles like Baldur’s Gate 3 and Palworld.

Accounts in a Steam Family can be designated as Adult or Child, with Adults able to manage invitations and apply content restrictions to Child accounts. Adults can also set playtime limits, restrict access to the storefront, and recover a child’s password. Children within a Steam Family can send in-app requests to adults to purchase new games, making it easier for parents to control and monitor their children’s gaming activity. Currently, Steam Families can have up to six members, and vacant slots must remain open for at least a year before a new user can be invited to join.

Valve’s approach to account sharing on Steam is relatively hands-off, allowing for communal use of a Steam account among a group of users. This contrasts with other digital subscription services such as Netflix, which have implemented stricter policies to prevent password sharing. Accounts can be designated as Adult or Child, allowing for different levels of access and control within the Steam Family feature. This feature is designed to be a labor-saving device for a household of gaming enthusiasts rather than a way for unrelated users to share their libraries.

The Steam Family feature simplifies the process of sharing games among a select group of users, allowing for easier access to compatible games within the Steam library. With features like content restrictions, playtime limits, and in-app requests for children, Steam Families provides a way for families to manage their gaming activity. Valve Software’s new feature looks to enhance the user experience and provide a convenient way for Steam users to share games and manage their accounts within a designated group.

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