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Humble Bundle's reputation could be ruined by THQ deal


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Initial post: Nov 29, 2012 1:55:27 PM PST
I was going to post this in the deal thread but I'd rather that discussion be about the bundle itself. I did notice that Twitter is on fire with indie developers who are angry about the THQ bundle. Here's an article from Ars:

http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2012/11/humble-thq-bundle-threatens-to-ruin-the-brands-reputation/

Since its successful debut back in 2010, the Humble Bundle has built a reputation for combining little-known independent games with a popular pay-what-you-want model and platform-agnostic, DRM-free downloads. The company's latest bundle, a partnership with major publisher THQ, could ruin that reputation in one stroke by abandoning some of the core principles that made the Humble Bundle so refreshingly different two years ago.

The Humble THQ Bundle launching today offers buyers a number of the publisher's legacy titles-Darksiders, Company of Heroes (and its Opposing Fronts and Tales of Valor expansions), Metro 2033, and Red Faction®: Armageddon-along with a copy of Saints Row: The Third for those who fork out more than the average sale price of the bundle. While past Humble Bundles have prided themselves on offering their games as DRM-free downloads for Windows, Mac, or Linux, though, the THQ bundle breaks precedent by providing games only as Steam-activated Windows downloads.

The new bundle also slightly tweaks the pure pay-what-you-want structure of past bundles, setting a $1 minimum purchase price. A similar threshhold was put in place for purchasers who wanted access to Steam keys during the Humble Indie Bundle 4 in order to prevent people "legitimizing" fraudulent Steam accounts with a bevy of cheap games.

I definitely see the logic of this new bundle from THQ's point of view. The publisher gets to trade on the Humble Bundle's good name in order to promote older titles that aren't exactly burning up the sales charts anymore. Any additional revenue gained from what's essentially a massive pay-what-you-want sale on its back catalog is pure gravy for THQ. Plus, exposing new players to these franchises increases the potential audience for upcoming sequels like Metro: Last Light and Company of Heroes 2.

But the move makes less sense from the Humble Bundle's standpoint. The Bundle built a name for itself by promoting lesser-known, quality independent games that the creators believed in-games that deserved a wider audience than traditional set-price sales schemes or limited indie marketing budgets would allow. THQ may not be as strong as it once was, but its games hardly need the Humble Bundle's support as much as their indie brethren. Saints Row: The Third recently shipped its 5 millionth copy, thanks in part to a massive marketing campaign alongside last year's release. Using the bundle as further promotion for already successful, big-budget games is the antithesis of "humble," and it dilutes the power and impact of what it means to be part of a Humble Bundle in the first place.

The move away from DRM-free multiplatform distribution might be even more damaging to the Humble Bundle's brand. Back when the first Humble Bundle launched, cofounder Jeffrey Rosen was very open about tolerating piracy rates of up to 25 percent in order to ensure the bundle would be DRM-free. With pay-what-you-want prices as little as 1¢, Rosen said he realized that most pirates were probably just getting around region-locked payment processors or pirating out of sheer laziness. "When considering any kind of DRM, we have to ask ourselves, 'How many legitimate users is it OK to inconvenience in order to reduce piracy?'" he wrote at the time. "The answer should be none."

While Steam may not be a huge inconvenience for gamers these days, its inconvenience level is considerably higher than "none." No doubt THQ was uncomfortable widely releasing its titles in a totally unprotected format (never mind that all its bundled titles are already widely available as cracked torrents). Less clear is why the Humble Bundle was willing to essentially sell out this core part of its DNA just to get THQ on board (Humble Bundle representatives have yet to respond to our request for comment). Perhaps tellingly, the option to donate a portion of the bundle purchase price to the Electronic Frontier Foundation has been replaced this time around with the option to donate to the Red Cross instead.

In the past, the Humble Bundle has been a boon to gamers on non-Windows platforms as well. By requiring that all bundled PC games also be available for Mac and Linux users, the Humble Bundle has led directly to new, non-Windows ports for a number of well-regarded indie games, including Bastion, Psychonauts, and Sword an Sworcery EP. The company continued its cross-platform tradition by urging a number of iOS-to-Android ports for its Humble Android Bundles and even hired a full-time Linux game porter recently to help the process along in the future.

Theoretically, this same pressure could have been brought to bear on THQ, requiring the publisher to work on Mac and Linux ports for its big-name games if it wanted access to the Humble Bundle name and sales platform. Instead, those in charge of the bundle seem perfectly OK with diluting yet another key element of the Humble Bundle experience in getting its first major publisher on board.

Building a successful brand is tough, but ruining a successful brand can be distressingly easy. By effectively ignoring many of the elements that made the Humble Bundle interesting and different in the first place, the Humble THQ Bundle risks irreparably harming what is currently a nearly unimpeachable brand in the world of game sales and distribution.

UPDATE

In a response to Ars, Humble Bundle co-founder John Graham assured users the company will "never stop creating Humble Indie Bundles... and the other bundle types we've successfully launched this year. But we're also eager to see if our pay-what-you-want plus charity model meshes with critically acclaimed AAA content as well."

Graham said the new THQ bundle did not represent a permanent departure from the company's indie roots, and that the company may even release a third indie bundle this year. "This year has also been a year of many experiments for us that fall outside the traditional Humble Indie Bundle framework," Graham told us. "We're very excited to be able to offer the gaming community a massive sale with blockbuster content and raise money for charity at the same time. We will of course continue to support indies content as a core of our business."

Regarding the lack of Mac and Linux ports this time around, Graham said plainly that, "in the case of this promotion, it would not have been possible for us to deliver this blockbuster content via other means." But Graham also promised the Humble Bundle "will not cease in our quest to bring awesome content to Mac and Linux and Android," and pointed out that the Humble eBook Bundle contained the first digital publication of Neil Gaiman's graphic novel Signal to Noise.

Posted on Nov 29, 2012 1:57:34 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 29, 2012 2:01:49 PM PST
What I hear

"bitch bitch bitch"

It's a bunch of games for whatever you want to pay. If they never put out another indie bundle it's a problem but let's not complain the first time they do something else.

Also I think THQ might need the money.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2012 2:00:12 PM PST
McAwesomeo says:
I agree. They aren't calling it an indie bundle. They even state in the update that they're considering putting out another indie bundle this year. There's a whole a lot of complaining over nothing going on.

Posted on Nov 29, 2012 2:00:48 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 29, 2012 2:02:22 PM PST
In fact I think the cherry picked comment at the end of the article is much better.

-----------------------
I think the far bigger problem here is that people are taking the Humble Bundle for granted. Maybe people think that by offering Steam keys, that there won't be a DRM-free bundle this month. Maybe people feel like they are "losing" a bundle?

Does selling DRM'ed stuff ruin their reputation? Perhaps it does for anal completionists. The site is pretty clear you're getting Steam Keys for Windows. Unless you insist on owning _every_ Humble Bundle, you simply avoid this one.

Also: I've never considered the Humble Bundle to be a strong promoter of "lesser-known" indie titles. It's been a strong promoter of more _popular_ indie-titles. Darwinia? Amnesia? Jamestown? Binding of Isaac? Trine? Braid? Bit Trip Beat? Pretty much every title I've seen on Humble Bundle is something I've heard about long before. If I want "lesser known", I turn to Indie Royale.

I also don't think the Humble Bundle has a lot of "pull", to the extent that they can make THQ port games to Linux and Mac. I might be wrong, but the HB tends to raise a couple million, that gets divided between multiple devs, charities, and itself. I don't think that gives it a lot of bargaining power with a large publisher, unless the publisher is doing a fire sale as it sinks (in which case I doubt it's in a position to port their library).
----------

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2012 2:01:46 PM PST
That and between so many other indie bundles like Royale, Gala, Groupees, Game Stand and probably at least a dozen more I don't know about it's not as if indie devs are being robbed at a chance of exposure for their games.

Holy run-on sentence, Batman!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2012 2:03:01 PM PST
McAwesomeo says:
If everything is being distributed on Steam you aren't very indie any more. You may not have a publisher, but you've made it onto the widest distribution program anyways.

Posted on Nov 29, 2012 2:03:26 PM PST
''I liked Humble Bundle before it was cool''

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2012 2:05:21 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 29, 2012 2:07:19 PM PST
ummmmmmmmmmm, ok.

EDIT: Ok I think I follow. The point I wanted to make was the first 2 paragraphs. I almost edited out the rest but I didn't think i should post on part of his post.

Posted on Nov 29, 2012 2:08:35 PM PST
got mayo?™ says:
All i know is my brother just padded his Steam library with 7 THQ games for $5.60.

Indies need to stfu and stop whining about everything, before they find themselves, by themselves :P

Posted on Nov 29, 2012 2:08:39 PM PST
Kin-foot says:
Gamers sure do love to complain

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2012 2:09:21 PM PST
Carlito says:
I'm not quite sure you get the meaning of indie....

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2012 2:17:41 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Nov 29, 2012 2:18:23 PM PST]

Posted on Nov 29, 2012 2:21:21 PM PST
Even Terry Cavanagh (VVVVVV, Super Hexagon) is disappointed in this bundle.

https://twitter.com/terrycavanagh/status/274217792855736320

Disappointed with the new "humble" bundle :( I expected better from them.

And one response:

it should have a banner that says "thanks for letting us leverage you indies and stand on your backs to reach the big boys!"

Posted on Nov 29, 2012 2:24:22 PM PST
Kirksnowsion says:
Oh no! Humble Bundle went mainstream! Helping out THQ and letting gamers get some bigger budget games for $0.25 apiece will destroy the brand!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2012 2:24:41 PM PST
And this is why all of the indie dudes get a bad rap. Being a pretentious douche always helps, doesn't it?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2012 2:25:10 PM PST
D00M3D?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2012 2:26:03 PM PST
I like Terry. I've corresponded with him a few times and met him at an event. I am surprised he spoke out on this.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2012 2:29:09 PM PST
Carlito says:
Indie Game: The Movie was proof enough of that for me. One half of the SMB Team and the creator of Fez seemed all well and good but the others were, well what you described. To this day I won't purchase SMB because I can't stand thinking my dollars will go to the d-bag half of that team.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2012 2:31:52 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 29, 2012 2:32:44 PM PST
I don't know anything about him or his games, but it just reminds me of Jonathan Blow. I loved Braid, don't get me wrong. My buddy and I beat the heck out of that game and it was super rewarding but MAN THAT GUY IS ANNOYING. His attitude is worse than all of the hipster bands and indie movie scenes smashed together. It seems this ultra-pretentiousness is required to be an "up-and-comer" in the indie gaming circles and it's going to kill it in the long run if it doesn't stop. Nothing like alienating a good portion of the fanbase, right?

EDIT: Really? My previous post got deleted?

Posted on Nov 29, 2012 2:43:43 PM PST
I imagine after THQ goes out of business, that this won't leave an impact.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2012 2:49:34 PM PST
I just hope THQ lasts long enough to publish the South Park RPG. I know a lot of people want Darksiders 3 but I don't think THQ will last that long and somebody will surely publish Darksiders 3.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2012 3:20:03 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Nov 29, 2012 3:28:11 PM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2012 3:21:17 PM PST
THQ should publish a game with a title that references their dire financial straits. That usually seems to work.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2012 3:25:14 PM PST
I think that "Uncharted" has already been taken. So has Burnout Crash.

Posted on Nov 29, 2012 3:29:10 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 29, 2012 3:31:23 PM PST
For whatever it's worth, THQ's stock shot up today. They're still going to end sooner rather than later but at least for today the stock went in the right direction.

http://www.google.com/finance?q=NASDAQ:THQI

$1.49 +0.41 (37.96%)
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Discussion in:  Video Games forum
Participants:  13
Total posts:  36
Initial post:  Nov 29, 2012
Latest post:  Nov 29, 2012

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