Want to loan your Steam games to a friend? Soon you may be able to.

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Source:Steam beta client

With all the excitement about Microsoft's XBox One policy reversal the other day, another interesting gaming story got pushed aside and, I suspect, missed by many of us.

PC gamers, who've been feeling pretty smug over the past week or so as they ride high above all the console drama (I say that with affection; many of my best friends are die-hard PC gamers), have even more reason to keep those contented smiles plastered on their faces. At least, assuming they use Steam.

Steam is (this is an assumption on my part; I don't have hard numbers) the biggest digital distribution system for PC games. Not only does Steam regularly offer fantastic sale prices on games, but it handles the chores of keeping your games updated, and even acts as a mod management tool for many titles. And it provides community tools to help keep in touch with your friends.

So what could make Steam even better? How about allowing gamers to lend their games to friends? This would be a first for digital games, as far as I am aware.

Now before we get too excited, this isn't based on any kind of official announcement or anything. Instead it comes from someone poking around in the language files for the beta version of Steam's client, as first seen on NeoGaf.

Here's a snippet from the steamui_english.txt file (found in the Steam beta client's \Public
sub-directory):

"SteamUI_JoinDialog_SharedLicense_Title" "Shared game library"
"SteamUI_JoinDialog_SharedLicenseLocked_OwnerText" "Just so you know, your games are currently in use by %borrower%. Playing now will send %borrower% a notice that it's time to quit."
"SteamUI_JoinDialog_SharedLicenseLocked_BorrowerText" "This shared game is currently unavailable. Please try again later or buy this game for your own library."

Based on these lines, a feature that lets you share your Steam library with a friend seems to be in the works. And it sounds like you'll only be able to lend out games when you're not using Steam yourself. In other words it'll be an all or nothing kind of share.

Ideally we'd be able to lend a specific game while we played another game and that doesn't appear to be the case, but let's not look a gift horse in the mouth. Even lending your library as a single entity is a huge step forward for digital game ownership.

It's also dangerous to hang too much credibility onto a few lines of text in a language file. Maybe this is something Steam considered and decided against, or something they were creating for some specific purpose and not intending to release to the general public. They're staying mum on the subject.

But it'd sure be a nice step towards more consumer-friendly digital gaming, eh?

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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