We learned in November that Valve was working on a new feature that will enable Steam users to mark individual games in their games as “private,” preventing everyone else in the world from knowing it’s there. That feature has now gone live in the latest Steam client beta, which also includes changes to the Steam shopping cart that will make purchasing gifts for other people a whole lot easier.
Steam already offers three different privacy options—public, friends only, or private—but those settings are account-wide: The ability to cover up a particular game or three that you might want to keep out of the public eye has been lacking until now.
“Starting today you’ll be able to mark specific games as private and they’ll disappear from anywhere they’d be viewed by someone other than you,” Valve wrote. “That includes: your ownership, in-game status, playtime, and activity in that game. This additional control allows you to keep most of your Steam Library visible to your friends, so they can see what you are playing and join in, yet also keep a few of those games just to yourself.”
To avoid confusion, Valve explained that the new privacy toggle is basically the opposite of the previously-existing “hidden games” option: Marking a game as “hidden” keeps it from appearing in your library (“for those games you still want to own, but [don’t] want to take up space your client’s game list”) but allows the rest of the world to see it, while private games will be visible to you and hidden from everyone else.
If I had to guess, I’d say this new feature may have been prompted at least in part by the rise of adult games on Steam. Most people likely don’t care if the world knows they’re playing Dota 2 or Call of Duty, but something like, say, Peeping Dorm Manager (which, for the record, I don’t own—or do I? You can’t tell anymore) might be a little bit of a stickier situation, so to speak. I don’t judge but some people do, and it’s understandable that some Steam users would want to keep their interactive entertainment choices on the down-low.
The new privacy function is definitely going to be handy for some folks and frankly I think it’s long overdue, but the new shopping cart updates might be more practical overall. The big addition is “inline gifting,” meaning you can purchase gifts for multiple friends without having to make multiple purchases. When you add a game to your cart, you’ll be presented with a dropdown menu enabling you to purchase it for yourself (and mark it private if you like) or as a gift, at which point you’ll be able to continue shopping for more games. When you check out, you’ll then have the option to select who each gift game is for.
(Image credit: Valve (Steam))
Because the update is still in beta testing, the new cart options are only available through the Steam client and not the website, and you’ll need to be opted into the client beta in order to use it. To do so, enter the settings option from the Steam dropdown menu, then select the “Interface” option and choose “Steam Beta Update” in the Client Beta Participation dropdown. An update will download, Steam will restart, and you’ll be off to the races.