Valve is changing the way beta access works for games on Steam for the better. Instead of forcing you to enter a special key from a game's developer to join a beta, the new Steam Playtest feature makes it much easier to find and sign up to test games on your own.
Playtest is different from Steam's early access program, which allows customers to pre-purchase a game — often at a discounted price — for access to unfinished builds. Steam Playtest is "free to use for developers and customers," according to Valve's official announcement post. “It does not support trading or monetization and does not replace Steam Early Access. You can even use Steam Playtest before or alongside early access. ”
The problem is that publishers can restrict the total number of participants allowed in Playtest betas and can limit how long players have access to the game. (Playing a Playtest beta does not add the full game to your library; you get nothing after the beta ends.)
Participating in a Playtest on Steam is easy. Simply load a game's store page on Steam and click "Request Access" if a beta is available. (The button will only appear on titles entered into the Steam Playtest program.)
If a Playtest is full, you can still request access in case the developer opens the test to more players.
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Since the Steam Playtest is technically still in beta, Total War: Elysium is the only game that has a Playtest beta running, but more titles will likely be coming soon. In their current form, Playtest betas do not appear on Steam store listings, so there is no easy way to look for new ones. If you're interested in a game, be sure to follow it on Steam, then follow the development studio and publisher on social media, or sign up for their newsletters to be notified of any beta tests in advance. .
Otherwise, Steam has search filters and store categories for early access titles and games with demos. The Reddit platform is also a good source to find games with early access builds or demos, and likely Playtests as well. Lastly, many game projects on Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms offer demos, betas or early access – either as a way to cultivate interest or as a reward for sponsors.
What do you think of this new Steam tool? Comment below.