Valve appears to be quietly testing a new feature on Steam with the introduction of a Playtest function, which may replace the need for Beta keys on the platform.
The news was first spotted by SteamDB creator xPaw, who demonstrated that the feature is currently available on Total War: ELYSIUM’s Steam page.
Valve shipped play tests on the Steam Store. Anyone can request access to the play test.
— xPaw (@thexpaw) July 24, 2020
Currently, if a developer on Steam wants to playtest their game prior to release, they need to hand out individual Beta keys to users – which can have problems regarding keys not working correctly, or being sold.
If this feature is rolled out on a wider scale, this could replace the need for Beta keys, allowing users to directly request access through the Steam storefront. Once the user has requested access to the playest, they will receive a follow-up email with an invitation, as shared by xPaw in a later Tweet.
This could make the lives of developers and players a lot easier by streamlining the beta process – without the need to send out individual keys, and instead just directing users to the Steam storefront to request access.
As this feature appears to be being tested quietly, it’s hard to say for sure, but it seems as if it is only available on Total War: ELYSIUM currently.