What is it?
The goal of this feature is to give developers a free, low-risk way to get playtesting data for their game without stressing out about Steam keys, user reviews, or wishlists. By using a separate "child" appID that is associated with, but separate from your main game, you can do the playtesting you need without interfering with your main game.https://youtu.be/0_HhCEJ_kZ0
Steam Playtest also lets you easily gate access to your playtest. You can let in as many or as few players as you need, and deactivate the playtest app when you wish.
How does it work?
A Steam Playtest appID has access to the same Steamworks technical features as your main game - but with reduced store and community setup. Instead of having its own separate store page, your Steam Playtest signup will live right on your main game, so that customers can sign up and access the playtest but still Wishlist or Follow the main game.
Here's what a Steam Playtest signup looks like to customers:
Potential testers will be able to request access to your Steam Playtest if they're interested. When you're ready for testers to try it out, you can add as many as you'd like from the group of interested players. You can deactivate your Playtest app when you're ready - or leave it available if you want to keep experimenting with upcoming features.
How do I set it up?Create a new Playtest app from the Associated Packages & DLC page for your game. Configure your application in Steamworks. At minimum, you must provide required library capsule assets and community assets (see Library Assets). You can also change the customer-visible name for your Playtest app (including localized names) - you won't be able to change this after it's released. When you're ready, complete the release process for your Playtest app. This will include a simplified store page and build review. Note: Your playtest will not have its own unique store page, it will only show up as a section on the base game's page. The store review checklist for a Playtest only consists of capsule images and icons. You can start allowing Steam Playtest signups by making it visible on the store page of your main game. Go to the Special Settings tab of the Edit Store Page admin tools for your main game to enable signups. Once you publish the change to this page, customers will see the sign up option in the Steam store.You will be able to show or hide Playtest signups whenever you like. Now that customers are signing up for your Steam Playtest, you can prepare your content for them. Upload depots and set up builds on the Playtest just like any other game or demo. You can integrate Steamworks technical features, set Steam Input templates, configure cloud saves, and so on. If you've never done any of that before, start with our Uploading to Steam documentation for help. When your Playtest is ready and your build is live, you can start accepting players. In the Steamworks Settings for your Playtest App, follow the Manage Your Playtest link (or find Playtest Settings under the Application tab). You can add groups of players when you're ready. Players are selected randomly from the pool of signups.You can also choose specific countries in the event that you have limited server availability and want to make sure latency is not an issue during your playtest. Once you're done collecting playtesting data, you can deactivate the playtest by setting to "Not Playable" from the Steam Playtest partner settings page. This option will not be shown while signups are being accepted on the Steam store. After deactivation, Steam will not launch the playtest app.Be thoughtful about this action! You might frustrate or disappoint your community if you take away the experience without communicating it beforehand, so it probably makes sense to set expectations in advance. You can use Steam Events and Announcements to communicate your playtest details. If you want to restart your Playtest after it's ended, perhaps you made some changes or increased server capacity, you can set your Playtest to Visible again. Players that already had been granted access will still have access and do not need to signup or be granted access again.
The default behavior is limited signup - potential playtesters request access, and you grant access in batches as you have capacity to accept them.
If your game is ready for more people, you can also set your playtest to Open signup: as players request access from the base game store page, they will be automatically added.
Changing from a limited-signup playtest (the default) will kick off a process that accepts any pending playtesters. This will generally start within a few minutes.
The signup type option is also controlled from the Steam Playtest page on the partner site. You can change the signup type whenever you need.
Playtest is NOT playable and NOT accepting sign-ups.This is the default configuration when you initially set up your playtest before setting it live or accepting sign-ups. It will also be the final configuration, once you are completely done running your playtest.
Playtest is NOT playable, but is accepting new sign-ups. This is the configuration you would likely set up initially to have players sign up prior to your playtest ever being available. You might also want this configuration if you've ended a playtest, but are planning on doing another one in the future and would like to add more playtesters to the future playtest event.
Playtest is playable and accepting new sign-ups. This might be the right setting for when your playtest is live and you plan on adding more playtesters in the future, perhaps you will be expanding server capacity or adding new features, and will need more playtesters to try out a future build.
Playtest is playable, but NOT accepting new sign-ups. You may want this configuration if you are not planning on admitting any additional playtesters in the future but still want your current playtesters to have access to the build.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Why did Valve decide to work on this tool? A: The new Steam Playtest feature came out of repeated requests from studios large and small, for a way to run a limited, lower-risk playtest with live customers. Dev teams wanted the freedom to run a playtest without stressing about their user reviews or interfering with their wishlist numbers... but they also wanted the control to start, pause, and end their playtests. We hope this new set of tools helps developers get closer to their players and make better games as a result.
We saw a number of other surprising or unofficial solutions to the same set of problems; stuff like offering a demo that was really just an Open Beta, or shipping a free "Prologue" game to build momentum. Devs were using whatever tools they could to build community and gather playtesting data. Those are great problems to solve, so we want to provide an official, well-supported solution that is easier for developers and more consistent for players.
Q: What if I want to run a playtest but control access via Steam keys?A: You can request keys for your Steam Playtest too. In fact, this is now the preferred method of running beta testing for your game if you need more than small group of testers. If you want to test off your main game's App ID, you can still use release override keys and information can be found in the Testing On Steam documentation.
Q: I have a question or feedback, how do I contact you?A: Please use our contact form here and let us know if you're running into an issue or have feedback on the feature.
Q: When can I use Steam Playtest?A: We think the best, and probably most common, time to use this feature is before your game releases. Your first priority will probably be to put up a coming soon page for your game, to start gathering wishlists and building a community. But once that's done, Steam Playtest gives you the option to get live player feedback prior to release.
If you want, you can keep using the Playtest appID as a testing ground for new tools or features... but remember: Steam Playtest is free for customers. Keeping your playtest up after release probably only makes sense if your game is already free-to-play.
Q: How does Steam choose which playtesters to admit to a limited Playtest?A: Steam will choose playtesters at random from the set of Steam accounts that have requested access. You do have the option to select to admit players from certain countries, although this would mostly make sense for limited server availability and addressing latency issues.
Q: How will players be notified when they have been granted access to the Playtest?A: Players receive an email from Steam when they are added to a Playtest. They will also see their status on the store page for the base game.
Steam will not email when a build for a Playtest is set to playable/non-playable. We recommend you use an announcement from the Steam Events and Announcements system to let players know when the Playtest is playable.
Q: How do I end a Steam Playtest?A: You can mark the playtest "Not playable" from the Steam Playtest page on the partner site. Make sure to disable the store-page signup first.
Q: Is my Steam Playtest confidential?A: No - players signing up for a Playtest aren't under nondisclosure agreements with you, and there shouldn't be an expectation of secrecy. If you want to run a confidential beta and require players to agree to an NDA, you can do a few different things.Use the Playtest App ID, request keys, set the Playtest to Playable and Store Visibility to Hidden. Use the main game's App ID and request release override keys.Both of these paths will require you to have your own solution for signing up and registering players.
Q: Does my Steam Playtest have a store page? Can customers find it in the store?A: The Playtest will not have its own store page; instead, it will be listed as an option available on the main game's store page. That way, any search traffic, store recommendations, etc all funnel towards the real product for users to wishlist and follow.
Q: Can I charge for access to my Playtest?A: No - the design of Steam Playtest is for free signups. And since Playtests can be deactivated at any time, it's not OK to monetize them with in-game transactions, or sell access. If you're ready to charge money for a work-in-progress version of your game, you should use Steam Early Access.
Q: How should I coordinate players for an online/multiplayer playtest?A: Some multiplayer games may wish to open up servers during limited time windows, and that's an ok use of Steam Playtest. We'd recommend using Steam Events and Announcements to talk to your players about scheduled updates or coordinated playtests.
Q: How will players give me feedback on my game?A: We suggest you engage directly with your audience - let them know what kind of feedback you are after. You can provide links to your preferred feedback or communication system directly in a community Announcement.
The simplest technical option is directly in Steam - your Playtest app will have its own Community Hub, which includes forums and chat features.
Q: If I run a Steam Playtest, will it mess with my real game?A: Your Steam Playtest appID is a separate appID from your main game. As a result, things like playtime, wishlists, reviews, refunds, etc. are separate as well. For example:A customer's wishlist for your game won't be impacted when they join or leave your playtest.A customer who has only participated in the Playtest cannot review your actual game.A customer's playtime in your Playtest has no impact on the Steam Refund policy, or the player's ability to get a refund on a purchase of your real game. A customer's playtime in your Playtest has no impact on earning trading cards or unlocking achievements.