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I'm currently working on my game, and we are planning on releasing a closed beta pretty soon. I would like to use Steam to make it, as it has a key generator to give people access, but I can't figure out or find out anywhere if you need to pay for the Steamworks partner, just to make a closed beta.

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Yes. It is a non-refundable* $100 cost per application for distributing via steam.

*When your product reaches $1000.00 revenue they pay it back to you.

Further details: https://partner.steamgames.com/doc/gettingstarted/appfee

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Making Steamworks account

First, you will need Steamworks partner account, which created from normal steam ID.

  • A regular steam ID, the one that you buy/play games as normal user is fine.
  • Document for tax review for setting up Steamworks partner account.
    • Registering as individual, they will ask for personal identification. A scan of official document or national ID card will do (non-US). Note that here you need to enter real name, you will be able to put another developer name or branding to your game, like Yiddyyadda Games Interactive later when setting up store page.
    • If registering as a company, they will ask for more company related documents.

After above process is done and after tax review is done (takes few days), if I remembered correctly, they will immediately ask for first app submission fee (100$) upfront, which will be credited to your account.

You will be able to create 1 app ID from the this initial credit. (More on this fee is already answered by Casey's)

After you have working Steamworks account and App ID

There are options you can continue from this point

  • For closed beta test, you will need to setup depot and upload your first build. (see Steamworks documents) This process totally happen on developer side and does not require any review/approval from Steam personnel.
    • To share to other, if that person is also a developer in the team, you could add him to your team as developer in your Steamworks account. That person will auto grant right to that app ID (and appear in his library) immediately.
    • To share to outsider beta tester, generate "beta" keys from app dashboard. Send this key to your friend and let him add it as if it is a retail key. (You can revoke this key later if you want that person to be able to buy your game when it is released) Issuing the key, although monitored by Steam personnel, if key is small enough, it will be usually fast, less in an hour.
  • Setup a store front for app to really appear in public Steam market as "Coming soon" for public presence and marketing (and game will be able to start accepting wishlist). This one requires review/approval from Steam personnel.

The point above is I want to show that 2 process are totally separated.

  • You don't need a game build to open a "Coming soon" store page.
  • You don't need a store page to do closed beta testing.

Valve also has their own tutorial in YouTube channel.

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