The short answer is yes! And you can do so by registering with your favourite game studios as a play tester.
What is play testing?
Play testing is an extremely good way for developers to test their games, servers, online functions, to see bugs in real time and check for other technical aspects just before the official launch. By extension, it allows gamers registered for play testing to try out the game before it releases, and for free.
The games that are play tested are not necessarily representative of what said games will look like at launch, and they usually do not have the entire content at the play tester’s disposal. By its very nature, play testing means engaging with an unfinished game in order to help the developers improve or fix issues before the release that might hinder the player experience.
For example, for online games, a lot of play testing might be centered around servers and how well they can handle the game. Stress testing the servers by an in-house team is very difficult, if not impossible, mostly because there won’t be enough people in-house to put stress onto the servers in order to simulate how the game might perform at launch.
Most game studios will have their own in-house testing teams, known as the QAs (Quality Assurance). Their job is to essentially break the game wherever they can, identifying the bugs and any issues that may hinder game progression. QAs are different in that aspect as they tend to be with the game from its inception, usually testing, playing and replaying a single level for weeks at the time in order to uncover and replicate bugs, then raise tickets to developers on where the bugs are and their severity.
Play testing is a bit different in that it isn’t a job, and you won’t need to look for bugs nor use software such as Jira (a Project Tracker) to communicate with the developers or raise tickets. By the time the game is ready to be play tested, it has been through the QA process many times over and is often playable.
As a play tester, you will get to experience a part of the game, then give your feedback to the developers regarding the functionality, matchmaking, enjoyment and yes, also report bugs. This feedback is voluntary however, so if you’re just wanting to test the game, but don’t want to give feedback, or have no feedback to give, you can still help testing with your presence.
Developers note how the software behaves when users interact with the game and it allows them to see what paths players take and what they do in the game. The approaches gamers may have to a game might be very different to how the in-house team was testing or maybe even how the developers imagined gamers will interact/use/play the game or the aspects of it.
What games can I play test?
From AAA developers like EA, Ubisoft and Activision, to small indie developers, there are a myriad of different games by different developers and ranging in budget that you could potentially play test.
In order to be considered as a play tester, you must express interest in being one and register directly with the company or developer for whose games you’d like to be considered. Not all studios/publishers run play testing, but very many do, so there are many opportunities to get into it. The registration process will usually ask you what types of games you like to play and will contact you when the type of game you like to play is available for play testing.
Even if you get accepted into their programme, you are under no obligation to play the game if you are not interested in doing so. If registered with the programme, you will be invited to play test certain games that you can accept or refuse.
Whether or not you get an invite to a particular play test is determined by many factors, but the two most important ones are the platforms you own and play the games on and your location. Some studios allow only location specific play testers to join in, such as Bethesda. You can only register and play test Bethesda’s games if you reside in the United States. For everyone else located outside of the US, not even registering is available.
Do I have to test the games onsite?
Most of the play testing is done remotely, though some studios will invite play testers to come and test their games on site. This doesn’t happen very often, and it is extremely rare for a huge studio to do this, but the opportunities to test at their studio do exist. For the purposes of this guide, we focus primarily on remote play testing. For most of us who do not live in or around Montreal, QC, Edmonton, AB or Los Angeles, CA, the option to test games at the studio would be unattainable anyway.
Where can I sign up for play testing?
As we already discussed, not all developers have nor run play testing, but very many do. Some of the biggest game studios run play testing for some of their biggest upcoming titles and original IPs.
We’ve made a non-exhaustive list of some of the publishers that welcome play testing registrations. Check them out and sign up with your favourite dev/publisher for a chance to play test their newest and upcoming games.
Best known for: Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, Watch Dogs
Ubisoft has developed and published some amazing games, Assassin’s Creed being just one of the many fan favourites. Ubisoft is a large studio, and they’re constantly working on new IPs as well as continuations of their already existing series.
Sign up for play testing with Ubisoft.
EA (Electronic Arts)
Best known for: Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Madden, anti-consumer practices, FIFA, Apex Legends, micro-transactions, The Sims
The chances are that if you were to ask anyone to name a few of their favourite games of all times, at least one of those will be by EA. Notwithstanding their transgressions against smaller studios and gamers, EA has some amazing games in the works and they very often send invites for play testing to some of their biggest games.
Sign up for play testing with EA.
Best known for: Call of Duty, Tony Hawk, Sekiro
Activision Blizzard, as it’s more commonly known, may not have a myriad of super famous games, but it probably doesn’t need it, as its best and most recognizable title is the Call of Duty franchise. If you enjoy Call of Duty, or are maybe interested in Activision’s future games, now it’s a good time to get into the play testing pool.
Signup for play testing with Activision.
Bethesda (US Only)
Best known for: Fallout, Elder Scrolls, Dishonoured, Doom
Although only available to people who reside in the US, we’ve included Bethesda into this list. If you’re from the US or are planning on going to the US, you might want to check out what Bethesda is cooking.
Sign up for play testing with Bethesda (US only).
Best known for: Bioshock, NBA 2K, Borderlands, XCom
2K games may not be as prominent as some of the other ones on our list, but you’ve probably played some of their games. Borderlands and Bioshock are some of their best and most recognizable.
Sign up for play testing with 2K Games.
Warner Bros. Games
Best known for: Injustice: Gods Among Us, Mortal Kombat, Batman, F.E.A.R., Scribblenauts
Warner Bros. Games (formally Warner Brothers Interactive) has brought us some amazing games over the past ten years. As a former employee I may be a bit biased, but I’d recommend signing up for play testing with WB. The great games they make are made by talented, creative and amazing people and there will be plenty more in the future.
Sign up for play testing with Warner Bros. Games.
Best known for: Dead by Daylight
The indie studio that brought us the very successful Dead by Daylight has playtesting options. It’s worth signing up if you enjoy their games to see what’s coming up and get involved.
Sign up for play testing with Behaviour Interactive.
Best known for: Final Fantasy, NieR: Automata, Life is Strange
Aside from Final Fantasy, Square Enix has published some amazing and unique games. NieR Automata takes you on an adventure of not just an amazing and touching story, but from an arcade game to a third person hack and slash. Square Enix is one of the more popular and well known studies, especially because of the Final Fantasy franchise and the more recent IP Life is Strange.
Sign up for play testing with Square Enix.
Best known for: Half-Life Expansions, Borderlands
We know Gearbox can create some great (and hilarious) FPS games. They made three Half-Life expansions and Borderlands is an extremely popular (and well made) franchise that seems to be getting bigger and bigger. It’s a great publisher to follow if you’re looking to test FPS games.
Sign up for play testing with Gearbox.
Some Development studios and publishers have ‘’user research’’ rather than play testing. Very large and extremely popular studios like Epic Games and Bungie would also get feedback in the form of surveys and other research in addition to invites to play testing.
Epic Games (US Only)
Best known for: Fortnite, Gears of War, Unreal Tournament
Epic Games has many extremely popular and successful games under its belt, but the game that overshadows them all for Epic Games is Fortnite.
Currently only available to those residing in the US, Epic Games’ user research extends to inviting people to test their games on-site. As such, it’s not available outside of the continental United States, but if you’re lucky enough to live in the States, and enjoy Epic Games,
Sign up for user research with Epic Games (US only).
Best known for: Destiny 2, Halo
For Destiny players, Bungie needs no introduction (in both good and bad ways). Now free to play, Destiny is immensely popular and incredibly fun game. Bungie is well established now in the gaming world, and if you’re interested in testing upcoming titles by Bungie, they too run a ‘user research’ rather than playtesting.
As a bonus, and unlike Epic Games, Bungie accepts participants from all over the world.
Sign up for user research with Bungie.
Smaller Studios and Indies
There are any smaller, mobile gaming and indie studios that are worth checking out when it comes to testing their new games. Don’t forget, even the most famous studios today were once small indie publishers, so you might be surprised with the gems you find.
Here are some of the smaller studios looking for playtesters for their upcoming games:
Playtesting is a great way to get involved in the game development process as well as to take a sneak peak at the upcoming games from your favourite publishers. It is also a great way to discover upcoming indie games and new and existing publishers that you may have missed otherwise, while giving you an opportunity to play unreleased games.
We hope you've found this list of our favourite big and small studios and publishers useful! If we’ve missed any or you know of more we can add to the list, contact us.