Valve today announced Steam Family Sharing, a new feature that allows close friends and family members to share their libraries of games. The company revealed Family Sharing will become available next week as a limited beta on Steam, open to the first thousand gamers that sign up.

The new feature lets you share your games with close friends and family members also on Steam. Once shared, you can play another person’s game while still earning your own achievements as well as storing game progress to the Steam cloud.

steam game request 730x410 Valve announces Steam Family Sharing beta coming next week, lets up to 10 devices access your games for free

To take advantage, all you have to do is ask your friend or family member to authorize your computer so you can access their library of Steam games. From there, you can access, download, and play their games for free.

A Steam account may authorize Family Sharing on up to 10 devices at a given time. That being said, simultaneous usage of an account’s library is not allowed.

BorrowersLoanedGame 730x410 Valve announces Steam Family Sharing beta coming next week, lets up to 10 devices access your games for free

Furthermore, the lender gets priority when wanting to access and play his or her games. If he or she decides to start playing when a friend is borrowing one of his or her games, the friend will be given a few minutes to either purchase the game or quit playing.

“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,” Anna Sweet of Valve said in a statement. “Family Sharing was created in direct response to these user requests.”

In its FAQ section, Valve notes that specific games cannot be shared: gamers’ libraries are shared and borrowed in their entirety. That being said, the company says that some Steam games may be unavailable for sharing, such as those that require an additional third-party key, account, or subscription in order to play. Region-restricted content naturally cannot be shared across regions.

There is one downside to sharing that should not be overlooked:

Will I be punished for any cheating or fraud conducted by other users while playing my games?
Your Family Sharing privileges may be revoked if your library is used by borrowers to conduct cheating or fraud. We recommend you only authorize familiar computers you know to be secure.

Nevertheless, this is a very forward-thinking feature that we’re sure many Steam users will want to try. We’ll let you know when it’s available for everyone.

Top Image Credit: Arbyreed/Flickr