Steam Playtest offers a new way to test pre-release games for free

Most probably see Steam simply as a store and launcher for games but Valve has always positioned it as a platform. It is, after all, one of if not the first to implement systems like achievements and trophies separate from whatever reward systems the game may have built-in. Steam also offers tools for developers to manage, monetize, and monitor their games and Valve is now giving them yet another tool that could make it easier to invite people to test games that are still in development.

Over the years, developers have come up with various ways to get people to help test games and weed out bugs before they are released to the general public. Early Access lets fans and believers invest in the game's development with their money and time and developers also give out Keys for some limited access to titles. Those methods aren't going away but Steam Playtest adds another and significantly simpler way to handle all that.

In a nutshell, Playtest removes almost all the barriers to entry in setting up a testing phase. No need to juggle access keys or pay for Early Access. Developers can simply add a Playtest access request on their game's page and grant or deny access as they wish. This also removes the need for setting up special demos of the game or the worry of pre-release reviews bombing a game that isn't even publicly available yet.

There are, however, more caveats than there are features to this new system. For one, Playtest doesn't require a non-disclosure agreement and developers that want to keep a tight lid on things will have to go the old-fashioned Steam release-override keys route. They also can't monetize Playtests or even charge for it like Early Access, especially since the developer can close the Playtest any time.

Steam Playtest itself is still in a testing phase and may end up completely different from its current form. Gamers should also be aware that Playtest is really just that and that their access to the game could be revoked or the playtest campaign itself be closed at any time.