Channels: Using the Cloud to Scale Production Playtests and Closed Betas

Stadia players already experience the benefits of playing in the cloud: no downloads and no updates.  We realized these benefits could also apply to developers who have use cases for releasing content to trusted members of the public before launch:

  1. Distributing content for playtests/betas: managing downloads and updates; ensuring that players have access to the correct builds.
  2. Security and trust: ensuring that only trusted testers have access and that it’s revoked at the end of the session when necessary.

We have spent the last year working to bring these benefits to them. Starting now, any Stadia partner can use the cloud to iterate on playtests and closed betas faster than before using a feature called “Channels”.

Developers can use channels to set up a pre-launch playtest or closed beta with a build and storefront of their choice. They can manage the players who have access to these playtests and choose whether to keep or revoke each player's entitlements at the end of the playtest. Once publishers have iterated and created a new binary update, they can make it available instantly (because players don’t have to download new builds).

In one case study, a developer wanted to run a 500 user playtest to test their cross-platform multiplayer feature, but didn’t want players to keep the entitlement. Another publisher wanted to run a press early access program for an upcoming game and wanted the press to keep their entitlements so they could continue reviewing the game post-launch. In another case, a developer wanted to ensure that their production servers were correctly configured, and Channels enabled them to check that the production environment was properly working before launch.

We’re now working to expand “Channels” to cover the post-launch playtest use case (i.e., testing patches for live games in production before launch) and other use cases. We think that distribution through the cloud offers opportunities for developers to make their games more fun – not just on Stadia, but on every platform – and we’ll continue to lean into these over time.

We constantly try to improve our products to help our developers succeed. If you are a developer on Stadia and want to try out the Channels feature, be sure to check the “Manage channels” page in the Stadia Partner Resource Center. 

--Konish Dutta, Program Manager
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