Steam Family Sharing is changing — here's how it'll benefit or hurt you

Steam Families
(Image credit: Steam)

Steam just revealed a massive overhaul coming to its Family Sharing system out of the blue, introducing new methods for parents and guardians to monitor and oversee the other accounts attached to their games library.

While a lot of these features are just great for families in general, certain additions will be highly useful for friend groups who simply have each other linked.

This overhaul is coming with a name change, now rebranding the system as Steam Families. It's now in beta testing, with the release date currently uncertain. Without further ado, here's everything you need to know about the updates coming to Steam Families.

How Steam Families will benefit you

Parents will find the Steam Families update provides a new level of control over what your kids can and cannot play, alongside giving each separate member their own dedicated library, achievements, and save progress. If you're an administrator for the family, you can even monitor playtime and establish limits. 

Family members can even put in requests for more playtime, and the family manager can approve or deny them. They can even make requests for game purchases, with Steam showing an example of a member requesting permission to get Helldivers 2.

Steam Families

(Image credit: Steam)

While this is great in and of itself, the most exciting change is something that will benefit anyone who uses Steam Families. When players shared libraries in the past, each individual could only access another user's library if that person was not playing anything. 

Since close friends often share Steam libraries, this meant the times when players could play each other's games were rare. Thankfully, Steam has completely removed this restriction, allowing each Steam Families member to utilize one another's library as long as it isn't the exact game they are already playing.

Essentially, if you own Hades but are playing Lethal Company, I can play Hades without being blocked — even if I don't own it. However, I cannot play Lethal Company at the same time. Not unless there is a second member of the family who owns the game also. This means that if two people in the same family own copies of Lethal Company, ANY two members of this family can play the game at the same time. Shared titles can even be played offline and the same game-sharing rules also apply to purchased DLC.

Steam Families

(Image credit: Steam)

However, there are some downsides. Steam has some caveats on its FAQ page regarding how Steam Family Sharing works. Namely, you won't be able to add a family member if "Your account activity does not show that you are part of the same household as the existing members."

How Steam determines this is, as of yet, unknown, but this could create a massive issue for friends who share games through Steam Families.

Steam Families is available to try right now for free. Simply go to Settings > Interface and then where it says Client Beta Participation, change it to Steam Families Beta, and then restart Steam. Just like that, you can access the new Family Management system.

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Momo Tabari
Contributing Writer

Self-described art critic and unabashedly pretentious, Momo finds joy in impassioned ramblings about her closeness to video games. She has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism & Media Studies from Brooklyn College and five years of experience in entertainment journalism. Momo is a stalwart defender of the importance found in subjectivity and spends most days overwhelmed with excitement for the past, present and future of gaming. When she isn't writing or playing Dark Souls, she can be found eating chicken fettuccine alfredo and watching anime.