When Valve announced its Family Sharing and In-Home Streaming features a few months ago, I knew they were on to something big. Not only would I be able to share all of my games with the entire household, I could have a powerful gaming desktop be the brawn behind more lightweight devices (like my aging Inspiron 1764 laptop). A few days ago, I got into the beta for both features. So far, I’m impressed with what they’ve accomplished.
Family Sharing is a simple idea: when you aren’t using your game library, someone else can. Instead of sharing your password, you simply authorize the account. It works about that seamlessly, but it does mean that if someone is playing a game from your collection, any game you launch will kick them out, even if it’s not the same game. While I would prefer to loan out a game at a time instead of the entire library, it’s a step in the right direction for households with multiple gamers.
The In-Home Streaming feels much more beta. The controls and video are very responsive, but the audio was a bit choppy and I had some issues with the mouse cursor disappearing on the client machine. Also, the game launches on the host system as if you were sitting at it playing the game, including the audio. It feels more like a very refined remote desktop rather than true game streaming at this point, but it does open the possibility of running a headless gaming box in a closet to power all of your other devices. It’s also worth noting that Streaming and Sharing do not work together as well as you may want. If I’m logged into Steam on my gaming desktop, I can only stream from my desktop to my account on another system.
Overall, this is a great step in the right direction and both features work surprisingly well for a beta. Knowing Valve, they’ll put the necessary polish on these features before they leave beta. It even has me thinking about getting a cheap SteamBox for the living room.