Valve introduces Steam Families with game sharing and parental controls

 Steam Families image.
Steam Families image.

What you need to know

  • Valve is introducing the Steam Families feature, which is now available in the Steam Beta Client.

  • Steam Families allow a group of up to six Steam users to share their games in a collection, allowing members of the family to play the others' games even when everyone is online.

  • Steam Families also feature parental controls that adult users can utilize to monitor and approve child account games and purchases.

Sharing games with family on Windows PC just got a lot more simple.

Valve is introducing Steam Families, a new simplified approach that replaces prior sharing options. Available now in the Steam Beta Client, Steam Families allow players to form a Family with up to five others. In a Steam Family, everyone's games are pooled together, allowing a user to play a game belonging to anyone else.

Adult members in a Steam Family can also use parental controls, setting limitations to approve purchases made by the child members in the family, or restricting the child accounts from accessing the Steam Community features.

Valve notes that you can leave or create a new family, but this is limited to being available once a year. Valve will also be monitoring feedback, meaning the time limit (and the number of players available in a Steam Family) could change over time.

If you're interested in trying this feature out before it's widely available, open your Steam account and go to Settings. Select Interface, then Client Beta Participation, and then finally select Steam Family Beta.

What are the limitations of Steam Families sharing games?

A family has as many copies of a game in a library as have actually been purchased. So, if a family of six players has collectively purchased two copies of Starfield, then two people in the family can play Starfield at once. If someone else in the family then buys the game, three people will be able to play it at once, and so on.

If a game is not currently eligible for the soon-to-be-replaced Family Sharing feature, then it won't support sharing through Steam Families. There's also a handful of games that do not support being shared due to technical requirements like having an additional, third-party account.

Analysis: A cool feature I won't likely use

This isn't really for me, especially since I don't have kids. For those families that do, I imagine this will be a godsend, especially for single-player games where it's less likely that multiple people will all be wanting to play the same game at the same time. Multiplayer games will be less advantageous, but even so, if a family of six can buy three copies of a game instead of six, it's a win.