Steam users will soon be able to share their game libraries with close friends and family through Valve's new Steam Family Sharing feature, soon to enter closed beta.
"Our customers have expressed a desire to share their digital games among friends and family members, just as current retail games, books, DVDs and other physical media can be shared," said Valve business development manager Anna Sweet. "Family Sharing was created in direct response to these user requests."
Accessing a friend's library will allow you to play all of their games, with their achievements and save data available on your own profile via the Steam cloud — essentially letting you try any game a friend is playing for free. And if you see a game on your friend's account that you want to play, you can send a request to be authorised for sharing.
Users can authorise lending on up to 10 devices in total at any given time. However, there is a catch: only one user can access the library at any given time; and, of course, the owner's account has priority. So if you're playing a game from a friend's library and they log in on a different computer to start playing, you'll have a few minutes to make a decision: either buy the game for yourself, or save and quit.
DLC can also be borrowed, so if you have a game and your friend has, say, map expansions you want to try, you can jump into your friend's game to test them out, but all DLC remains the property of the original purchaser.
It's also important to note for Australian users that regional restrictions will apply when borrowing or lending content.
Finally, Valve cautions that you don't just lend your library out willy-nilly to anyone who asks. "Your Family Sharing privileges may be revoked if your library is used by borrowers to conduct cheating or fraud," it said in the FAQ. "We recommend you only authorise familiar computers you know to be secure."