Devs can now invite players to test their games.

Valve has just launched a new Steam feature today, but this one seems to be aimed more at developers and publishers than a typical user. This new feature will allow studios to invite players to test out their game without having to manage keys or make use of external mailing lists. The number of allowed players, when testing is open, and when it ends, along with other features, are all at the studio's discretion when running these playtests.

Valve is appropriately calling this new feature "Steam Playtest."

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Players will simply need to click a button to sign up. Once they do, they're placed into a queue. On the backend, studios will see how many players have access, how many players are waiting for access, and how many manual invitations have been sent out. There is a method of adding additional testers and other options for studios to make use of.

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When you're ready to end your playtest, you can easily deactivate it- which will remove the Sign Up option from your game’s store page, and remove the Playtest from players’ libraries.

Behind the scenes, the actual download-and-play experience is happening on a secondary, supplemental appID, similar to how we handle Demos on Steam—so a player’s ownership and playtime in the Playtest is separate from the real game. This means Steam Playtest won’t cancel out or compete with Wishlists on your real game, and Steam Playtest owners cannot write user reviews.

There’s plenty more details and information available in the full documentation here, but in closing we wanted to provide two more important notes:
  1. These tools are in beta, subject to change, and not fully released yet. If you’d like to take advantage of Steam Playtest while it’s still in development, use our contact form here to provide us with some background about when you want to start your playtest, and what kind of data you’re hoping to gather from players. In the months ahead, we’ll keep improving the tools and work towards a point where they are fully self-serve!
  2. Steam Playtest is free to use, for developers and customers. It doesn’t support commerce or monetization, and is not a replacement for Steam Early Access. You could even use Steam Playtest prior to, or alongside, Early Access.
We try to design these tools to be as useful as possible, and then put them in front of increasingly more developers so we can make incremental improvements. If there are things you’d like to see from Steam Playtest, please let us know in the developer forums or contact us any time!