As we move away from cartridges and shiny plastic discs, and towards digital distribution, game mobility becomes an important factor in how our gaming libraries are kept. Not in whether we can play our games on the go, but whether we can share our games or re-sell them. When I was a kid we thought nothing of swapping, borrowing, and trading NES cartridges. No verification, or logins, there was a physical thing we could share.
That gets trickier with digital distribution and cloud gaming. A number of different tactics have been employed to offer gaming services while trying to prevent game piracy, with varying levels of success. Now Steam is implementing a new program aimed at getting gamers invested into their gaming platform through the games friends and family members have purchased.
In limited beta now, Steam Family Sharing allows users to create a list of approved “close friends and family”. This list of people will be allowed to play games on the Steam user’s account, while unlocking their own achievements and saving their own game progress on their own account.
On the surface it’s a great goodwill program, allowing people to share and play, but I think it very savvy that people get to accrue their own achievements. It’s an investment in time that gamers wont want to have to rebuild if they decide they want to own their own copy of the game. They’ll be far more likely to purchase through Steam. Building that kind of community is a license to print money.