How ‘Humble’ Does A Bundle Have To Be?

The Humble THQ BundleThis week the Humble Bundle team launched their latest ‘Pay What You Like’ grab bag of bargains offering up a lot of high value content on the same optional payment scheme. ‘Huzzah!’ we declared, but for some it was a slap in the face of everything that the Humble Bundle stood for, and they are angry!

Very angry. 

You see the whole Humble Bundle program was set up to stand up against the big names, taking out DRM and offering indie devs a platform from which to build upon. The latest bundle seemed to upset people because it went against a couple of these rules. Well, all three of them actually.

So as you may have guess I am talking about the Humble THQ Bundle that launched upon the Internet last week, bringing with it a selection of games:

Darksiders

Metro 2033

Red Faction: Armageddon

Comapany of Heroes (Plus Opposing Fronts and Tales of Valor expansions)

and if you beat the average

Saints Row: The Third

The average at the time of writing is $5.61/£3.48.

Now this offers an incredible price on some very good games, but many disputed the fairness of a big company using the Humble Bundle service to sell it’s wares, with comments such as this one making me almost spit my Mountain Dew all over my monitor in comedic fashion:

“Fuck You Humble Bundle! I DONT WANT DRM IN MI GAMESS!”

Nicely put sir!

But on the whole it has raised some interesting points, most importantly what does a ‘Humble Bundle’ have to contain?

The original plan was as follows:

Offer Games Cross platform
Offer Games That Are DRM Free
Pay What You Want
And Allow People To Donate To A Chosen Charity.

Now the current bundle is not cross platform (Windows only) and comes via Steam (which negates the No-DRM rule) but you can still pay what you want AND dish out your payment to either a split between THQ and a charity or one, or the other. This hasn’t changed.

Now for me personally I take the following stance on bundles, if the content is good I’ll buy.

That’s it.

That’s what pushes me to purchase. Frankly as much as I love the idea of indie devs making pots of cash, I don’t always want to play the games that they make, and as such I won’t buy every game on offer, every time that they are offered.

The other issue that drives my purchasing is price. I am more inclined to go for a bundle with a true ‘Pay What You Want’ ethos, and while I have no issue with ‘Beat the Average’ plans, I do feel that this also goes against the grain a little if you are saying that folks should pay what they think is fair, but no less than $x. Now THQ are offering some huge titles, that saw full, premium release price points, at a very fair price at a time when the company’s stock is at a low point. Now lets be super cynical for a moment and pick up the point that this is little more than an effort to raise the stock profile of THQ, while also pushing some money towards the company. So what? Why, as gamers, do we suddenly have the right to criticise a company for putting out games at an incredible price point just because it is delivered via a platform that’s usually dedicated to highlighting indie devs? Were this bundle launched on Steam for $10 it would have sold tens of thousands of copies and every gaming news site and podcast on the web would be celebrating the value, rather than concentrating on the fact that a site’s reputation may have been compromised.

Oh we are a fickle bunch of self-indulgent twats sometimes.

See here’s the thing. We ALL win. If you don’t want THQ to profit from this venture, give all of your payment to charity.

If you don’t want the games no-one is holding a gun to your head and making you buy something.

The argument that this whole debacle will hurt the Humble Bundle brand is also incredibly faulty. Where does the damage occur?

Maybe some indie devs would prefer to release on Steam with DRM? Doubtful.

Maybe less people will take interest in future bundles? Incredibly unlikely.

Instead this bundle has provided an interesting point of evolution, namely it has been proved that a big company can use a PWYW scheme and sell a lot of games. At the point of writing 614,804 bundles have been sold. Over half a million copies of games that people would be very unlikely to have been buying at this time of the year. Now we don’t know what percentage THQ have made from those sales, but we do know that people are willing to pay about £5 for those games. So lay that against other companies, who might have a solid back catalogue that has dried up in a time when retailers are dedicating more and more space to new releases, pre-order displays and trade items. If there’s no money to be made via retailers dealing in second hand games – in terms of the original developers – why not put out a bundle, maybe through a different dedicated channel and get some extra cash from some previously great games?

If you got people to throw in soundtracks too, you’d likely get people just paying for those alone. It’s a great model that is currently, despite heavy criticism from the self-absorbed twat centre of the web, proving that it can work and sell.

So what next for the Humble Bundle site? Well one thing is for sure, the next indie bundle will likely be the most noticed, given the newer users that this specific bundle has pulled in, and let’s be honest more users means more sales, which means more indie games getting into people’s hands. We ALL win.

So do yourself a favour, get over to http://www.humblebundle.com and grab yourself a bundle. If you object to a bigger company – albeit one who really could do with gaming community support – then go down the charitable route. Do what you like, I’m not telling anyone what to do, I’m just suggesting something not to do.

Don’t be a twat.

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