Beta testing is a beneficial process for both gamers and developers alike. Beta testers feel like the special chosen ones who get the inside scoop on a new game before the rest of the public, while developers get free help testing out their unreleased games and earning valuable feedback and bug reports. We'll break down the different ways you can gain early access to Android games ahead of their official release.
The difference between a closed beta and "early access" open beta
We should first clear up the differences between participating in a closed beta and downloading an "early access" game in open beta on the Google Play Store.
Closed betas are usually invite-only and typically only available to the public though some form of direct contact with the development studio or PR team. Opportunities to sign up to be a beta tester are commonly announced through Twitter or other communication channels like Facebook or Discord. These are designed to be perks for long-time fans of the studio or game franchise. For example, last year Feral Games tweeted out multiple opportunities to beta test online multiplayer for GRID Autosport, wherein all you needed to do was fill out a Google Form and wait for the invite email to hit your inbox.
Gaining access to a game's closed beta may depend on the country you live in and the smartphone or tablet you intend to play on. Keep in mind your access can also be revoked at any time if you do anything that violates the terms and conditions for joining the beta (that can include sharing screenshots or video of the game online). You are given the privilege of playing an unfinished game ahead of its release, so along with not sharing the details of the game, you're typically expected to report any bugs you encounter and offer general feedback to help the developers improve the game.
There's another way to play Android games still in beta, and it can be found in the "early access" section in the Google Play Store. Other apps might allow you to join a beta program to help test out new features before they go live as part of an official update. Early access is like a beta, except it's open to the public and you typically have to pay to be one of the first to play.
How to download Early Access games from the Google Play Store
- Launch the Google Play Store on your phone
- Scroll down to find the Be the first to play section. Tap the arrow to expand the whole section.
Here you will find all the game in open beta that are available to download.
Downloading an early access game is the exact same process as downloading any other app from the Play Store. The major difference being that early access games will appear in the beta tab if you go to the "My apps & games" section of the Play Store.
How to join the beta program for certain apps
Occasionally, app developers will offer beta programs for regular users willing to test out new features before they get included in an official app update. To find out if an app you use has a beta program to join, you'll need to know where to look on its Play Store listing.
- Scroll down on an app listing in the Play Store to see if there's an option to Join the beta.
Beta testers beware
This should go without saying, but we'll say it anyways: beta software can be unstable and full of bugs. You should expect to run into some weird glitches and may experience app crashes.
Having said that, it can also be quite rewarding to be among the first to play an exciting new game,and you do get the unique opportunity to provide feedback and opinions directly to the developer. The game developers want to know about the issues you run into and your thought on the game, so if you aren't prepared to leave feedback you probably shouldn't even bother with signing up to participate in a beta in the first place.