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.
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?
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, please contact us here
to provide 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!
Once Valve has enabled the tools for you, follow the instructions below.
- 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 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.
- 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.
Frequently Asked QuestionsQ: 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: For years, developers have used free Steam features to run their own closed betas, by granting access via Steam keys. That path isn’t going away; you can still run a closed beta with free ‘release override’ Steam keys if it’s best for your game or your community. Information can be found in the Testing On Steam
documentation.Q: How do I get into the Steam Playtest program?
A: 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!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.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 still use Steam release-override keys, but you’ll need to use 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.