The latest Humble Bundle is out. Notice I didn’t call it what it’s normally called – the Humble Indie Bundle – because there’s nothing “indie” about it. This is called the Humble THQ Bundle, and from the initial look of things, it’s an absolute doozy. Any price above $1 gets Steam keys for Darksiders, Metro 2033, Red Faction: Armageddon and three separate Company of Heroes games, in addition to soundtracks, with any purchase above the average ($5.21, as of this writing) also bringing in Saints Row: The Third. For a bundle that’s been built on indie games, having all AAA level games involved is a stunner, especially for the price.
However, I see problems in this approach:
1) This proves to me how desperate THQ is. They are in serious financial peril, and are really on the cusp of Chapter 11. This is good PR for them, but a bunch of $5 sales on their older games, to which a disproportionate amount is going to charity, isn’t going to help them put out a new AAA release that will get them back on their feet.
2) The initial purpose of the Humble Bundle was to help indie companies be noticed, while supporting charities. THQ doesn’t need to be noticed, they need better management. Unless they’re giving charity to poor, down on their luck publishers, this could alienate future indies.
3) Worst of all, it goes against the other stated intentions of the Bundle: DRM free games that could be played across all spectrums. This bundle requires Windows – Mac and Linux are completely locked out – and furthermore, most of the games on the list require Steam to be redeemed. As far as DRM schemes go, Steam is by far the best, but not everyone likes it, and it’s going to alienate fans, especially those that game on Linux or were looking for a better Bundle for the holidays. It’s already showing; as of this writing, the fourth highest donator, at $101, is “@LinuxGamers not happy”. Despite not being happy, they still donated $101. I can assure everyone that most others won’t be nearly as charitable, especially towards a company that has heavily used anti-consumer practices such as $10 Online Passes.
Normally, I would politely tell these people to go forth and multiply, but that’s not a smart move with so much money and so much goodwill involved, both of which are necessary for a good cause like the Bundle. Proportionately speaking, Linux users are by far the highest donators to past Bundles, based on average price per purchase. It would appear that the intention so far is to see if the sheer volume of people seeing a bunch of AAA-level games available for such a low price will override any ill effects. So far, it’s working – the Bundle is closing in at $400,000 so far, and it’s only in the first day – but this obviously won’t be the case with future bundles. At the very least, the Bundle is experimental in nature; the previous one was an eBook bundle that was positively received. However, that bundle didn’t require everyone to, say, use the Kindle reader.
In a best case scenario, this is a temporary change from what the Humble Bundle is about, before they go back to normal for the Humble Bundle 7 and regain any lost goodwill. At worst, it’s a massive mistake on the part of the Humble Bundle crew, as they alienate a core part of their audience, all for the sake of a publisher who will likely be in liquidation at this point in 2013. It’s a curious move, to say the least.
EDIT: Literally as I was writing this, Kyle Orland of Ars Technica put up a piece that echoes what I’m thinking. A comment within that article also echoes what I’m thinking:
The consumer and gamer part of me is pretty happy with this bundle.
The principled and ideological part of me is pretty appalled at this bundle.
I’m confused :S