As we head into a new console generation, it appears that a lot of the focus will be placed on used games. With Microsoft all but outright denying the potential for used games on their console and Sony adopting a policy that’s the polar opposite, there is a lot to consider.
However, while Sony and Microsoft go back and forth over used games, it appears another big-name company might be outlining its own policy for used games: Steam. Currently, the concept of playing a used game has not been possible with Steam, but that might soon change.
If a few new lines of code in the most recent Steam client beta update are any indication, the popular digital PC game provider might look to include game sharing in the near future. According to the code, Steam is looking to create something called the Shared Game Library, which as the name suggests might allow players to share their games with friends. How exactly that might work is unclear, but we do know that only one player can access a game at a time.
In other words, players are lending their game to a friend and sacrificing their access to it in the process. The code (seen below) does suggest the game’s “owner” can reclaim access from friends, though.
The Kindle marketplace offers a similar feature, whereby users can loan specific books in their digital collection for a short period of time. However, the lending of books is determined on a case-by-case basis, meaning not every book can be shared.
If Steam deploys a game-lending program it’s very likely they will approach it in a similar fashion. Publishers will be able to decide whether to allow game lending, and those publishers that do will be able to outline their sharing policy (how long, how many games, how many shares per game).
It’s also entirely possible that this feature never sees the light of day, or that Steam deploys it but no publishers use it. But that’s the beauty of Steam: it’s a great platform for indie developers, who could use a game-lending program to their advantage.
Game lending could become almost like a demo program, where one gamer can loan their digital copy to a friend for a short period of time. In essence, one player would be treating their friend to a demo of a game they find interesting. That could be a great way to increase sales.
For now, the possibility of used games is just a pipe dream, spurned on by some new lines of code. However, if Sony has taught the gaming community anything, it’s that support for used games and game sharing can get you a lot of attention.
Would you like to see Steam offer some sort of used games or game lending program? How do you think it should work?