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Steam beta update code reveals possible game sharing feature

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Steam may soon allow users to share digital games with one another, based on a discovery made by a neoGAF user while digging through the code of the latest Steam client beta update. User Grief.exe found the phrases “shared license,” “borrower,” and “shared game library,” along with potential notifications that suggest how the feature may work.

“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,” reads one line in the code. “This shared game is currently unavailable. Please try again later or buy this game for your own library,” says another.

The change could be activated in an future update to Steam. It would represent a radical change for Valve’s digital distribution and social gaming service, but not a totally unexpected one as Microsoft’s controversial Xbox One policies fuels an evolving conversation about the nature of content ownership. The upcoming console allows users to share games freely, but only among up to ten “family members.” Players decide who is in their families.

If Valve intends to implement a game-sharing feature, it’s possible that this is a direct response to the Microsoft situation. It may also simply be a long-in-the-making feature that is finally set to be activated. Of course, this could also never be a live feature at all, or it could be an optional feature that will only work for some games. None of this amounts to confirmation, but these bits of code are definitely something we haven’t seen before.

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