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Valve to launch free game sharing service

Family and friends can access one user's Steam library across a maximum of ten devices

Software giant Valve will allow Steam users to turn their PCs into game platforms that can be shared among friends and family, the company has announced.

A new initiative, called Family Sharing, allows one person to share their library of Steam games across ten other devices, giving other users access to their purchased titles. The feature will become available next week in a limited beta, Valve said.

Currently, the only way Steam users can theoretically allow their friends and family to play their games is to provide them access into their account. However, if customers use the Family Sharing service, multiple people will be able to access Steam games on different devices and log-in with their own personal account. This means different users will be able to store their own files, save customisations and earn individual achievements.

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The service is, in principal, the same as the abandoned Xbox One Family Sharing initiative. Microsoft has said it may bring the service back eventually.

Family Sharing is likely to now be a key feature of the long-awaited Steam Box; a digital games console for the living-room that the Washington corporation has been slowly developing for a number of months.

In a statement, Valve said its inspiration to enact family sharing came from the Steam community.

"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 representative Anna Sweet.

Once a Mac, Windows or Linux PC is authorised as a shared computer on Steam, the lender's library of Steam games becomes available on ten other devices. Valve has not stated there are local restrictions on what devices can be registered, suggesting that friends with their own Steam account can be given access to another's Steam library.

Some Steam games may be unavailable for sharing, such as titles that require an additional third-party key or subscription in order to play, Valve said.

"Borrowed games will be unavailable on even an authorized device when the lender's library is currently in use on another computer," the company added.

In the event of a friend playing a borrowed game and the owner logging on to play the same title, the friend will be given a few minutes to either purchase or quit.

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