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This is a follow-up to a question from 2010: Can I create one steam account per game? Since then, Steam introduced Family Sharing, which significantly changes things.

The idea is to resolve the contention introduced by the requirement that Steam libraries can only be shared in their entirety and to one person at a time. It's clearly not the intended usage, but I'm not clear about whether it's legally or morally wrong or even just impractical.

To do this, I would create one account for each game purchase. Steam will let me use the same email address for multiple accounts, but wildcards like Gmail +-addresses would also work. I can then use these accounts to family share each game to 5 different accounts. I would not be sharing my password, but either logging in physically or using a remote desktop connection.

Does Valve care to stop this? Is it against the terms and conditions? Is there a limit to the number of accounts shared to a given user or machine? A limit to the number of accounts by IP? What are the pain points here beyond the initial setup and sharing?

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  • Did this work for you? I'm considering the exact same measure to allow two family computers to both have access to games at the same time.
    – MatBailie
    Jul 5 at 22:19
  • I didn't do it. I never got around to asking Valve and I didn't want to do it without asking them and risk getting banned. Although I'm pretty sure this method would work technically, buying duplicates on sale is also okay with me, for now. Let us know if you find anything out!
    – cjfp
    Jul 5 at 23:16

2 Answers 2

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I sent this to Steam Support

Hi,

I recently contacted you regarding my son's new PC and his ability to play games he had purchased under my account. My paraphrase of the response was "we don't support your needs, and do not intend to".

I've been asking around and the following was suggested to me.

  • Create account USER1 (mine, for example)
  • Create account USER2 (my son's, for example)

Then...

  • Create account GAME1
  • From account GAME1, buy a game
  • From account GAME1, give family sharing access to both USER1 and USER2

Now, either User can access that game, but not both at the same time

Then...

  • Create account GAME2
  • From account GAME2, buy a game
  • From account GAME2, give family sharing access to both USER1 and USER2

Now, either User can access that second game, but not both at the same time

But, crucially, one user can play GAME1 while the other user plays GAME2

I can find nothing in the subscriber agreement to prohibit this.

Please can you confirm if it is considered acceptable.

  • Crucially, if it is not considered acceptable, please direct me to the particular terms that prohibit it

I am fully willing to abide by your terms, provided they actually exist.

I must state, however, that if some workable solution is not found for my situation, I and my son will cease making purchases from Steam and revert to services such as GoG, XBox, etc, which do not have (what I consider to be) punitive restrictions.

Regards, A fully dis-satisfied customer and parent

I got this response...

Hi there,

The situation you described would work fine and not break any items in the Steam Subscriber Agreement.

Sorry to hear the feature is not working as well as it should for your situation. If you would like, I can pass along any feedback you have to the developers who work on the feature so they are aware.

Best Regards, Jace

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  • Good news! I can't think of anything that was left out in your exchange with them. For my case, it just didn't make sense, because in the end I really did want to gift the games rather than share them, either so that the recipient could decide what to do without me, or so that we could play co-op together. Please update or comment if you encounter any unforeseen limits or annoyances.
    – cjfp
    Jul 9 at 17:42
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No publicized IP limits related to SFS, but do note that Steam can be a buggy bandwidth hog. As long as it's not being abused to rent games to other users or cheat it seems like it's perfectly within the ToS, but if you have any doubts you can try asking Steam support.


Does Valve care to stop this? Is it against the terms and conditions?

Will I be punished for any cheating or fraud conducted by other users while playing my games?

Your Family Library Sharing privileges may be revoked and your account may also be VAC banned if your library is used by others to conduct cheating or fraud. Additionally, VAC-banned games cannot be shared. We recommend you only authorize familiar computers you know to be secure. And as always, never give your password to anyone.


Is there a limit to the number of accounts shared to a given user or machine? A limit to the number of accounts by IP?

Is there a limit to the number of devices or friends I can authorize to share my Library?

Yes. You may authorize Family Library Sharing on up to 10 devices at a given time, and for up to 5 accounts that may then use your game library on any of your authorized computers.


What are the pain points here beyond the initial setup and sharing?

Can all Steam games be shared with friends and family?

No, due to technical limitations, some Steam games may be unavailable for sharing. For example, titles that require an additional third-party key, account, or subscription in order to play cannot be shared between accounts.

More info on the help page.

--

Can two users share a library and both play at the same time?

No, a shared library may only be accessed by one user at a time.

--

Sometimes the games I’ve been given access to are unavailable for me to play. Why?

Shared games are only available on devices that have been authorized by the account holder. Shared games will be unavailable on even an authorized device when the account holder’s library is currently in use on another computer.

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Who owns and can access the DLC and in-game content associated with a shared title?

A guest will have access to the lender's DLC, but only if the guest doesn't also own the base game. Guests may not purchase DLC for a base game they don't own. Any player may purchase, trade, earn, or otherwise acquire in-game content while playing a game, but in-game items cannot be shared between accounts. These items remain the property of the account that purchased or acquired them, whether borrowing or lending the base game.

--

Can region-restricted content be shared across regions?

No, any region restrictions will remain in place when lending or borrowing content.


Quotes are excerpts from the landing page for SFS on the Steam website.

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  • Thanks, I had read the SFS rules a few times before asking but it still wasn't clear to me. Ultimately the other answer involves a direct exchange with Steam, so I went with that one.
    – cjfp
    Jul 9 at 17:42

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