Valve's popular Steam game service will soon offer a new option that will help budget-strapped families and friends. It's called Steam Family Sharing, and it enables gamers to play each other's games.
Steam - available for OS X, Windows and Linux - enables you to buy and download games from Valve and other prominent game developers and publishers, along with a number of independent studios. Steam users get achievements for reaching in-game goals, can share their progress with other players and participate in online chats and more.
The new feature allows users to share their games on up to ten devices. Libraries that are shared can only be played by one person at a time, however. As the lender, you're given priority - if you fire up a shared game when someone else is playing it, they'll be given a few minutes to decide if they want to purchase it themselves or quit playing.
While you're playing a shared game, you'll earn your own achievements, plus you'll be able to save your own game progress to the Steam cloud. That way, if you buy the game further on down the road, you won't lose your progress.
The use of the word "devices" as opposed to "computers" may be deliberate; Valve has indicated it has plans to release its own Steam console system in the future - presumably that would count as a device included as part of the Family Sharing plan.
Users who share their accounts share all the games in their accounts, not just a single one - and that includes the downloadable content (DLC) as well.
A limited beta test is coming in September, but you can join the Family Sharing discussion group now for more info.