Steam Might Allow Shared Games?

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | June 19, 2013 - 06:33 PM |
Tagged: steam, DRM

You can learn a lot by scanning configuration, registry files, and so forth; many have made off with a successful bounty. Most recently, some Steam Beta users dug around in their user interface (UI) files to notice a few interesting lines, instructing the user that the title they are attempting to launch will kick off a friend it is currently being shared with.

Wait, what?!

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"SteamUI_JoinDialog_SharedLicense_Title" "Shared game library"

"SteamUI_JoinDialog_SharedLicenseLocked_OwnerText" "Just so you know, your games are currently in use by %borrower%. Playing now will send %borrower% a notice that it's time to quit."

"SteamUI_JoinDialog_SharedLicenseLocked_BorrowerText" "This shared game is currently unavailable. Please try against later or buy this game for your own library."

Sure, this whole game DRM issue has been flipping some tables around the industry. Microsoft tried permitting users share games with their family, utilizing about the worst possible PR, and eventually needed to undo that decision. Users would like flexible licensing schemes, but the content industry (including the platform owners like Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony, who receive license fees from game sales) are unwilling to cooperate unless they are assured that users are honest.

Of course, what usually happens is honest users get crapped on and pirates enjoy a better experience, after initial setup.

While there is not much difference, from a high level view, between Steam and the proposed Xbox One, there are a number of differences. The obvious difference is Steam's offline mode, but probably the larger reason is trust. Valve has demonstrated a lot of good faith to their customers; where Microsoft shuts down access to content people paid for, Valve has shown they have intentions for both long-term support and consideration for the user's experience.

Ultimately, I feel as if DRM is not a necessary evil, but while it exists at least there are companies such as Valve who earn trust and use DRM both for and against users. I expect that some day, the industry will turn against DRM either willingly, by legal intervention, or because companies like will use DRM-free as a promotional tool and nibble their way to dominance.

And yes, despite the fact that this will be confused with bias: if you prove that you are untrustworthy before, you will get away with less later regardless of your intentions.

June 19, 2013 | 08:36 PM - Posted by Nilbog

This is a fantastic idea. I can't believe nobody thought of this before. This is also going to be a great way to discover new games. If a game doesn't have a demo (like Skyrim) maybe your friends have a copy. Or maybe you are broke and your friend has that game you want, you can basically play for free as long as your friend isn't playing.

I love the idea of sharing digital goods. Steam FTW

June 19, 2013 | 08:47 PM - Posted by Scott Michaud

Then again, this was possible before DRM existed. While not permitted by the license agreement, you could let your friend borrow a game for a bit. Even though there was "no reason for the friend to then purchase the game", according to the publishers, some do and those people probably were not going to purchase it otherwise. That was how I ended up buying Space Quest anthology.

I think the real trick for publishers is to permit your users to do what they find ethical without encouraging the notion that your content has no value. Unfortunately, publishers often confuse "portraying their content as valuable" with "portraying their customers, and their needs, as valueless".

June 19, 2013 | 09:23 PM - Posted by arbiter

Most likely Steam will be forced to limit it to game publishers that Allow it to be done. Which most likely won't be many outside valves own game and indie games. But if they say added a limit of say, only allow the shared game to a person for say 24-48hours or something, more could be on board with it.

June 19, 2013 | 09:20 PM - Posted by arbiter


June 20, 2013 | 12:10 PM - Posted by FnordMan (not verified)

yeah.. i've bought a ton of games over the years that I never would have.
Why? I pirated the thing first to see what the thing's like. Even when games had demos the demo rarely reflected the full game.

June 20, 2013 | 04:32 AM - Posted by SteeloYangster

I love this idea. I can only hope that this will come to fruition very soon and apply to all of my games in my current library. I think that Valve/Steam has a lot of confidence from publishers/developers/customers and they'll certainly be able to work something out.

June 20, 2013 | 09:41 AM - Posted by ColeBrodine

I want this to be true so badly... Even if it is limited, it would be a great start.

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