Don’t Look a Humble Bundle in the Mouth
A new Humble Bundle deal was released today: the “Humble THQ Bundle” features Saints Row 3, Darksiders, Metro 2033, Company of Heroes, and more. As of writing the average bundle price (which you must beat to get all games) is $5.31. In short, this is a really good deal.
In fact, I was saying as much on G+ — I bought two copies of the Bundle, one for myself and one for a future Secret Santa recipient — when I was informed that in fact this Bundle is bad. Even Ars Technica apparently agrees, or at least thinks there’s enough there to report about, with today’s article titled Humble THQ Bundle Threatens to Ruin the Brand’s Reputation.
Oh lord. Spare me from video game hipsters.
Look, I think my history of writing shows that I am all about sticking it to The Man when it’s deserved, and personal purchasing power. And that is pretty much why I think trying to attack Humble Bundle for not being “indie” enough is like shooting ourselves in the foot.
Point the first: The Humble Bundle makes no promises of being independent games only. Yes, they produce the Humble Indie Bundle and it’s been pretty great for both consumers and indie developers. And I’m sure there will be Humble Indie Bundles again in the future. (In fact this was confirmed by the organization earlier today.)
However, it’s not like the Humble Bundle was a huge source of exposing unknown titles, the developers of which will now go hungry. Most of their previous indie games were pretty well known in gamer circles before they hit the Bundle, like Braid, Binding of Isaac, and Trine. For me, the Bundles were more a case of “oh, I’ve always meant to pick those up” than discovering totally new titles.
Plus The Humble Bundle has had multiple interactions with Double Fine games like Psychonauts, which while not a “AAA” title certainly dances on the line of “indie”. Apparently that was okay, though.
Point the second: Big developers/distributors should actually be encouraged to seek out alternative pricing schemes, such as the Bundle’s “pay what you want”. If you listened to yesterday’s podcast we talked about how many brand new $60 games we’ve bought in the last two years compared to sale or indie titles, and it seems like the big titles are losing that war. Why not explore other pricing strategies, rather than just blindly keep trying to sell $60 games that maybe hit a sale price of $30?
Like, by buying the Bundle but refusing to give any money to THQ or whatever to “send a message” (as I see people encouraging each other to do on Google+) we’re just telling THQ and other big companies that unique pricing structures will fail. Letting the consumer decide what they want to pay will fail. I turned the charity slider way up and the THQ slider way down (although not off) myself, because I have the ability to do that thanks to the Bundle.
Again, why exactly do we want to tell big companies to stay away from innovative pricing systems that give us more purchasing power? Why not welcome them to the Bundle fold, indie or otherwise? It’s not like it’s a “AAA” bundle that we have to buy for $60 and all the money goes to a giant bonfire in the office of EA’s CEO.
Point the third: Charity. I’ll be totally honest — the $10 that I gave directly to the American Red Cross and Child’s Play through my Bundle purchases this morning would be otherwise earmarked for lunch or something. The Bundle gets charity dollars out of my budget that otherwise would not go to any group. Like, this is a good thing.
Point the fourth: The Humble Bundle people are not, in fact, coming to your house and threatening to shoot your dog unless you buy it.
I realize that this Bundle differs from previous ones in that it requires Steam and Windows, and the games are from a big publisher. I also realize that this is trying something different, and there will be the old standard Bundle that we all know and love again soon.
Basically, the way I see it, a bunch of nerds are getting all snotty about an organization that raises millions of dollars for charity and provides cheap games for consumers because.. there’s no Linux version. Usually nothing sets me off faster than when some industry or media person calls gamers “entitled”, but man, some days we kind of deserve it.