While Steam already gives developers tools for pre-release testing in its Early Access program, Valve is introducing a new way for developers to get their games tested with Playtest. The new system will allow devs to manage testing periods without handling keys or mailing lists.
The new feature has gamers sign up for a test on a game’s Steam page, with all the management happening directly through Steam. It looks like an easy, more simplified way to handle testing, which should be useful for indie developers with smaller teams.
Playtest allows devs to control how many people can access the playtest at once, while automatically registering interested users on a standby waiting list. Then, the developer can automatically add more users to the test or simply end the test as needed.
Once the Playtest ends, the downloaded demo game will be automatically removed from all users’ libraries. Playtest users also can’t review a game, and downloading the test won’t affect wishlists at all. The Steam info page mentions that, without support for monetization it’s not meant to replace Steam Early Access, and that devs can even run both programs for their game at the same time.
The beta tool is itself in beta at the moment, and any devs who use it can submit feedback and requests for the feature. Devs can find out more at the full Steamworks Documentation page.