File Hosting Services for Distributing Your Game

Sean KumarWebsiteLeave a Comment

When it’s time to distribute your free desktop game or public beta to the world, you’ll need to find some method to distribute your files from your website.

Here are some services, in no particular order, which are good candidates for file hosting and distribution. Some will allow you to link to files directly from your website, and others require you to go offsite. It’s not a comprehensive list, but it can get you started (as usual, I declare that I am not affiliated with any of the products mentioned below):

 

1. Your Web Hosting Provider

After finding the right web hosting provider using this guide, you can upload files to your site’s ftp account (using a program like Filezilla) and provide links to them, or upload using WordPress or whatever CMS (Content Management System) you’ve chosen and manage your downloads there.

Advantages
  • You’ve already paid for the service, so why not put it to use?
  • Downloads can be pretty fast, depending on your host.
  • Direct links to your files.
Disadvantages
  • If your hosting account has limited storage, large game file sizes with different versions can eat up your allowed storage capacity.
  • If you have limited bandwidth, many people downloading your game within one month can quickly use up your bandwidth, causing you to go over your monthly allowance and your hosting provider will start charging you.
  • Even if you have so-called “unlimited bandwidth”, if you use up too much bandwidth on a shared hosting account, your hosting provider can suspend your account and ask you to upgrade to a higher service. Same goes for if you’re using up too much CPU time on a shared hosting account.
  • A little difficult to track number of downloads. You can use Google Analytics or a link shortening service such as Bitly. The problem with using a service like Bitly is you cannot link to an .exe file, so if you’re game file is a setup.exe for installation, you must first zip the file before distributing it. I’m using WordPress, and found a little plugin called Linker which tracks the number of clicks by wrapping your file link in a custom link, which you can then post.

Unless you have something better than a shared hosting account, it may be best to use this not as your main download, but as an alternate link.

 

2. Cloud Storage and File Hosting Services

Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, Mega, MediaFire, etc.

See this Wikipedia article for in-depth comparisons.

Advantages
  • Most of these are FREE storage and distribution services, and are quite easy to use with proprietary desktop or web apps.
Disadvantages
  • Most of these companies have bandwidth limitations, some listed and some unlisted. For example, if too many people download your game in one hour or day or month (depending on the service you use), your link may be banned. See the wikipedia article linked to above for details on each. Google Drive lists no bandwidth limitations, but people have reported links not working with too many downloads in a given time.
  • Some of the providers have file size restrictions, so please keep an eye out for that.
  • Some providers don’t allow you to directly link to a file, and either make you go through a page filled with ads or an extra page to download the file.
  • Some of these providers require an extra workaround to directly link to a file:Google Drive – Use this article to see how to provide direct download links.
    OneDrive – See this article for direct linking.
    Dropbox – You can provide direct download links by following this article.
  • It is a little bit difficult to track number of downloads with these providers. See the “Disadvantages” section in #1 above for how to do this. For Dropbox, you can use the OrangeDox app to track downloads, although it will still open another page before you can download. OrangeDox will offer direct linking in a paid version.

 

3. Amazon Web Services

I just recently found out about this, although it’s been around for a while. Amazon offers cheap storage and distribution solutions.

Advantages
  • They have a free tier which you can take advantage of for one year, after which you will be charged.
  • It really is cheap. Using their S3 storage solution will cost pennies per month if your file sizes are small and your free year is up.
  • You can use their CloudFront Content Delivery Network to distribute files fast, for free, up to 50GB per month.
Disadvantages
  • Once your free year is over, or you go beyond the free tier usage, you need to start paying. The upshot is that you only pay for what you use.

 

4.Microsoft Azure

Microsoft’s cloud computing and storage platform can also be a great deal (meaning free) if you qualify for one of its programs.

Advantages
  • They have a 1-month trial which allows you to use up to $200 worth of Azure services for free.
  • Prices are comparable to Amazon Web Services. In fact, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft seem to be in a little price war, which is good news for users.
  • If you qualify for their BizSpark program, you can use many Microsoft services and products free for up to 3 years!
Disadvantages
  • If you do not qualify for Bizspark, you only get 1 month free storage hosting and distribution, but at least you only pay for what you use.

 

 

5. Google Cloud Platform

Google’s Cloud storage option in its cloud platform can also be used if you decide to pay for what you use.

Advantages
  • As of the time of this post, Google’s prices are just slightly cheaper than Amazon’s and Microsoft’s offerings.

Disadvantages

  • It is not readily clear if Google offers a free tier or how long its trial period is. Although there is a “Try it now” button, I have not personally created an account yet. They do have a Google Cloud Platform Starter Pack where you can apply for $500 of service credits.

 

6. IndieDB

IndieDB is a great place to download and browse free games.

Advantages
  • It’s free to submit your game.
  • You can easily see how many game downloads you have.
  • You can get more exposure for your game due to the number of people browsing IndieDB. There is also a section for comments.
  • No download or bandwidth limitations.
Disadvantages
  • Your users are taken out of your website to IndieDB’s.
  • There is an ad pop-up to download the game.

 

7. itch.io

Relatively newer, it looks like a wonderful site to host your game downloads.

Advantages
  • It’s free.
  • You can set it up so that people can donate money to you if they want.
  • More exposure for your games.
  • No download or bandwidth limitations.
Disadvantages
  • Your users are taken out of your website to your game page on itch.io to download your game. The nice thing is that there are no ads, but there are also no comments.
  • If you do want people to be able to donate to you, there is an extra window people have to go through to be able to download your game.

 

8. GameFront

GameFront has around 1,000 freeware games listed.

Advantages
  • It’s free.
  • There are a lot of stats for number of downloads.
  • You can get more exposure for your freeware game.
  • No download or bandwidth limitations.
Disadvantages
  • There are a ton of ads all over the place.
  • Your users are taken out of your website.
  • Your users need to click through additional pages (a survey for example) with ads everywhere, and it’s hard for some to figure out just exactly what to click on.

 

9. TIGdb

The Indie Game Database has a ton of games listed, and you can submit your own game for download.

Advantages
  • It’s free.
  • More exposure for your game.
  • No ads.
  • No download or bandwidth limitations.
Disadvantages
  • As with the others, you’re taken out of your website to TIGdb’s pages.
  • There is no comment system, but there is a rating system.

 

I think that about covers some of the more well-known solutions. If you have anything to add, or if there are any mistakes above, please let me know in the comments section so I can update the article.

Thanks!

 

 

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