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Download keys

Download keys & URLs

A download key is a special URL that gives someone access to a project’s files.

There are a few ways a download key can come into existence:

  1. Someone pays for your project
  2. You, the project owner, generates one from the project edit page

When someone downloads a free project a download key is not created. Someone will not own a game just by downloading it for free

We've described in detail what happens when someone pays for your project in the How buying works guide. One important thing to note: If someone pays for a project that is free (minimum price of 0), they will still get a download key. If you decide to add a price in the future they will still have access.

A download key’s URL is unique and should not be shared. If a download key is linked to an account then it can only be viewed by the owner when they are logged into their account.

File access

The purpose of a download key is to give download access to the files you've uploaded to your project. By default, any file you've uploaded will be available for download. If you change the minimum price of your project then key holders will still have access to their files.

There’s one exception to this rule though: any files that are individually priced.

There are two ways to set a price on your downloadable files: You can set a minimum price on your entire project, or you can individually set a price on files of your choosing.

All download keys have an associated price. It’s used to unlock any individually priced files. This price is set when someone buys your project, or if you manually set it when generating a download key.

Generating a download key

From the Distribute tab of your project’s edit page you can find the Download keys section. There are two ways to generate keys: singular or in bulk.

If you'r looking to give out access to your game to a friend, or press, we recommend generating a single key. If you need to generate many keys, like for a promotion on another site, then we recommend the bulk generator.

Individually generated keys give you finer control over the key: you can set a label for easy identification, track how often it’s been used to download, and revoke it if necessary.

Bulk keys

Keys created in bulk have two additional options:

  • The Unlock price lets you specify which files of your project should be unlocked by the keys you're generating, in case you want to set apart bonus tiers (soundtrack, artbook, etc.) for fans who have actually bought your project.
  • The Give access to external keys option lets you specify whether the keys you're generating should give access to one of the external keys you've added for your project.

External keys (Steam, etc.)

If your project is being sold on other marketplaces, such as Steam, you can give away external keys to people who own your project. (e.g. with each itch.io purchase, see below for who can access keys)

Navigate to the External section tab on the Distribute tab on your project’s edit page to add keys to your project.

Note: It’s good idea to triple-check before submitting external keys, as it may be difficult to correct mistakes after keys have been made available. You can contact us if you made any mistakes and need our help.

Ensure you add enough to be available for your buyers. If someone tries to claim their external key and there are none left in stock, they will be told to try again later.

Read How buying works to see how buyers can redeem external keys.

Who can access external keys? (Steam, etc.)

External keys are available to people who own your project

There are a few ways people can own something:

  • Paying for it
  • Being given a download key (described above)
  • Claiming a project during a 100% off sale (Note: this is a special model that must be explicitly enabled by the sale creator)

The following do not give ownership:

  • Downloading a demo
  • Skipping payment and downloading a pay-what-you-want project for free

When someone owns your project, they are given access external keys if they are available, unless external keys have been explicitly disabled. This can be controlled from the external keys dashboard page.

Note: For projects that are free, but accept pay-what-you-want donations: Any payment will give the buyer ownership, and therefore grant access to keys. This means someone is able to pay the minimum ammount itch.io allows and get a key.

Note: For sub-products (aka DLC), external keys are not granted with those payments. Only a purchase of the main product is suitable for getting external keys.

When using any of our tools to generate download keys to grant access to a project, you can decide if you want to also include external keys. If you do not explicitly enabled them, then those download keys will not come with any external keys.