I come to you with a very brief hands-on experience of the Steam Family Sharing beta. We gained access to the beta about an hour ago, but that’s at least given us a chance to see how it works — because it might be a little different to what many of us expected.

You can’t just share with a friend you know online

Many of us thought we’d be able to share our games library with anyone on our friends list (up to 10 at a time) at the click of a button, but that’s not the case. The game library account holder has to login to the machine and install a game locally before they can choose to share the library on that machine, this also allows another account on that computer to request access.

Here’s a brief walk through of how it all works:

First, once you have access to the beta, you login into your account on a computer. In the settings, you have a new “manage family sharing and devices” section.

steam sharing 1

When you open this panel, you can authorize or de-authorize the computer that you are logged into at the time. As well as view any other authorized system, when they were last accessed, and who by:

steam sharing 2You can see in the above image that I have authorized the one computer, and it has been accessed by another account. If I login to another account on this same computer, I can automatically view, install and play every game on the my own original account — it also tells you who the game is shared by just below the play button:

steam sharing 4

And that’s about all there is to it. It’s pretty simple, it works straight-up, without any messing around. But, if you want to share with somebody outside of your own home, you’re either going to have to visit their house to set it up on their computer, or risk sharing your password with them (which I’m fairly certain is also against Steam’s rules and risks losing your account).

So, now we know how it all works. What are we thinking? Do leave your opinions in the comments. I’ll be playing around with it some more over the next few days, when I can go out and authorize it on a friend’s computer in a different house to see how it handles that.