Microsoft is allowing developers to run a private test of new Windows apps or games with a limited audience, to make sure any bugs are spotted before general release.
The company said it has added a 'private audience' capability in Dev Center, which will allow developers to publish an app or game that will be visible only to the people they specify. No-one else will be able to see that the product exists in the Microsoft Store, even if they were to have a direct link to its Microsoft Store listing.
"This lets you validate the experience with the audience of your choosing, while keeping the product hidden from everyone else until you are ready to make the it visible to the public," Microsoft said in a blog post.
Private audience uses known user groups; membership of these groups can be managed directly in Dev Center. Only people in the groups as defined by the developer who are authenticated with a Microsoft account will be able to see the app in the Microsoft Store. Any reviews left in the store by the group members will be visible in Dev Center, but won't appear on the Microsoft Store listing.
Developers can select which of their known users' groups to make a new app visible to in the Visibility section of the Pricing and availability page when submitting an app, and new users can be added to the groups at any time.
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After the app is published to a private audience, it can also be set to automatically go live to a general audience at a specific time by setting a date. The private audience option is only available for new submissions, and once a product has been published to a public audience, you can't switch it back.
Microsoft said that if confidentiality is a concern, keep in mind that although private audience will restrict the app's visibility to only the people the owner specifies, and they should clearly communicate to those people that you are trusting them not to disclose information about the app via screenshots or social media posts. And although reviews left in the Store are shown only in the Reviews report in Dev Center, feedback left via Feedback Hub will be visible to everyone, so users should make sure their testers relay their input in some other way.
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