Today Valve announced a new service called Steam Family Sharing which allows users to share their games and software with other people on their friends list. It launches in limited beta next week, and is open to the first
1,000 who sign-up
. Those who gain access will allow be able to share the contents of their Steam library with up to ten Steam accounts.
The service will allow people you designate to be able to download and play games from a shared library, but it won't allow access to a specific title from more than one computer at a time. If the owner of a title logs into Steam while a "friend" is playing, the borrower will be given a notice to purchase the game for themselves, or quit playing. Similarly, if a "friend" is playing a shared game, only the owner will see it as being available, but it will be inaccessable to anybody else the account is shared with.
Valve has stated it implemented the service in direct response to user requests, which is certainly nice of the company, but could also be a move to compete against the next-gen consoles, which have both made the ability to share games a top priority in their marketing campaigns. The maneuver also gives Valve an advantage over EA's Origin download service, which recently became the first digital delivery for software to announce a refund policy.