The Response to the Humble THQ Bundle

What I love about the Humble Indie Bundles is that they are DRM-free, allow me to pay what I want, and the games are available for GNU/Linux, my preferred platform. The people behind it were involved in Wolfire Games, and I reviewed Lugaru years ago for Game Tunnel, so I was familiar with them. Even though the Humble Bundle company is now spun off and has serious investment behind it, it still felt like a great vehicle for publicity, sales, and altruism for indies.

I was surprised to learn about a new Humble Bundle while catching up on my game news. I normally receive emails from the people behind it. I even received emails when they tried branching out into ebooks and Android titles. I never received an email for their latest so-called “humble” bundle, though, and it’s probably because I’m registered as a Linux-based customer.

Humble Bundle Not So Humble

I first read about it in Ben Kuchera’s Penny Arcade Report article “The Humble THQ Bundle loses indie games, adds DRM, and is a step backward for the bundle model”. Kuchera writes about how this new bundle offers nothing that previous bundles were loved for, even pointing out that THQ no longer employs most of the people who made the games in the first place. This year alone there were reports of over 200 layoffs.

But here’s what really bothers me about the article. After lamenting the return to DRM, the removal of platforms, and the lack of indies, and stating “this is a move in the wrong direction. None of the things that make a Humble Bundle great are present. Instead we’re presented with what amounts to a Steam sale”, Kuchera says:

I’m going to be a hypocrite and buy a bundle, just because these are incredible games at a staggeringly low price, but wouldn’t it have been something if they were offered without DRM? Or if they ran on Linux? Or if the space was used to promote games that hadn’t already sold millions of copies? This isn’t a bad deal, but it’s certainly a step away from what made Humble Bundle so unique. If this is the sort of thing we can expect to see in the future, the Humble name could quickly become just another cut-rate digital retailer pushing catalog titles. Humble Bundles should be something special, and worth getting excited about.

The way I read that section: “Outrage! This is horrible! But I’m going to support its success so it has a better chance of happening more often.” Yes, it is hypocritical. Considering how over half a million bundles have been sold in only a couple of days, making it the most successful Humble Bundle yet, it’s clear that there’s a lot of people who don’t mind this Steam sale at all, but why add to their numbers if you don’t like it? Why support the “step backward”?

I’ll also call out Juuso of GameProducer.net for his Us vs Them: The New Humble THQ Bundle Case.

When looking at this offer only, it’s irrelevant whether there has been previous bundles or not. Whether previous bundle had Linux games or not, is totally irrelevant when it comes to evaluating the current offering.

If I’m having a good day today, it’s irrelevant whether I had a good or bad day yesterday. I can be happy about today, even if was shitty day yesterday.

Similarly, I can objectively look at this bundle offering, and determine whether it’s a good or bad.

I’m not quite sure where he is going with this argument. The past is irrelevant to today? There are no consequences you’re experiencing today as a result of actions from yesterday? If a company is known for being one thing does something that seems the exact opposite of what they should, I’m supposed to ignore it and pretend that it’s a brand new company? He continues with the oddness:

Equally well we could turn it around. Imagine that all the previous bundles were AAA, windows-only, DRM games — and you bought none of them.

And then comes a new bundle. If the new bundle offers indie, windows+linux+mac, no DRM games, would you not buy “because previous bundles were windows only”? To me, that makes no sense.

No, it doesn’t make any sense. Let’s take that last argument and really think about it. In reality, if such a bundle came along, I could see people deciding to buy it to support this step in the right direction. The idea that this example is the same thing at all is bizarre.

Now, I’m coming at this from a different perspective. Juuso doesn’t care that Mac and Linux were supported. He doesn’t care about DRM. He doesn’t care that the bundles have been good for indies. The Humble Bundle, to him, was just another option for getting good games at a good price, and so that’s his main criteria for evaluating this latest bundle. To him, everything else is irrelevant, and so sure, he finds the arguments against this bundle irrational.

For me, the Humble Bundle meant something else. It meant supporting independent developers. It meant explicitly not supporting DRM. It meant supporting more Linux-based games. It meant supporting charities and non-profits doing good work (it still bothers me when the EFF is not listed in a given bundle). The Humble Bundle brand made a difference. Up until now, I knew that if they were offering a new bundle, it supported all of these things, and I was happy to support them.

In contrast, I haven’t participated in Indie Royale sales or cliffski’s Show Me the Games because they almost explicitly don’t support Linux players, for one. I don’t have Steam on Linux (yet), and so I’ve only heard about the flurry of sales they always have. It’s great for you if you have a Windows-based system to play on, but irrelevant to my interests.

So let’s evaluate this bundle independently of the previous ones. I’ll use the same “facts” that Juuso used:

I get to pay whatever I want ($1 or more)

Ok, just like in previous bundles.

I get several games from a company who has paid & owns the rights for those games.

Sure, I like supporting the idea of buying the games from a legitimate and legal source. I’m not paying someone selling fake copies on a street corner.

But who is that company? Do I want to support THQ? I think that’s a legitimate question. Later in his article, Juuso asks if it would have made a difference if EA did it. Yes, I think that’s also a legitimate question, considering how many layoffs and reported bad practices there have been in the past.

I can decide the amount that charity will receive
I get to decide the amount that bundle creators receive

Here is a bit of redeeming news. Even if I have to pay a minimum of a dollar to be a hypocrite, I can decide that all of my money goes to charity, or at the very least, that none of it goes to THQ or to the Humble Bundle.

There’s DRM.

Oh, that’s a deal-breaker for me. If I paid for a game, I expect that I won’t have trouble trying to run it, and DRM is nothing but an impediment. Even if I want to try to play Windows games on my Linux-based system through Wine, paying for DRM is paying for me to have a tougher time. I don’t care how good you think the games are. The hassle is not worth it to me, and I don’t support such a draconian practice if I can help it. And I can help it here by not purchasing. I vote with my dollars by not being a hypocrite.

These are Windows-only games

Also a deal-breaker for me. If I have to reboot into Windows to play, I’m not likely to do it these days. I rarely have to use Windows, and I’m not paying for the privilege of encouraging me to do so. If I can’t play on a platform that is convenient for me, it’s a problem. It’s hard enough getting my older games to play on my modern system. I’m not interested in paying for more difficulty with simply getting the game to work.

As a GNU/Linux user, my experience is likely different from a Windows-based user’s, but I hope you can see that these aren’t irrational arguments against the newest bundle. You might think it is irrational for me to expect to play games when I use a Linux-based system, but see, that’s the thing. The Humble Bundle was responsible for many indies making their games available for me. I didn’t care if the latest major first-person shooter involving World War II or space marines wasn’t available for me to play. I did care that games such as Braid, World of Goo, and Gratuitous Space Battles were available. The latter game would NOT run in Wine, and cliffski has made it clear that he didn’t care much about Linux before. Since Humble Indie Bundles required that you supported Windows, Mac, and Linux, I’m grateful that I could finally play his amazing and innovative game.

Since I can’t play THQ’s games without encouraging DRM and a lot of effort, I’m not going to support this latest Humble Bundle. It would be irrational and hypocritical of me to do otherwise.

What’s your take? Do you find this latest bundle to be a good development?

11 comments to The Response to the Humble THQ Bundle

  • PoV

    I haven’t bought my soundtracks yet. Humble has been a Soundtrack bundle to me for the past several bundles. The games, forever lost in my steam account.

  • agree

    I am glad to see that there’s at least one single person who has the same point of view like me in this Humble Sellout Bundle thing, I was starting to think that I was the only one in the world caring about these things like DRM and multiplatform support. Thumbs up.

  • I appreciate that they’re trying something different and experimenting to see if this payment model works for non-indies.

    However, THQ is so huge that they can figure out how to do their own pay-what-you-want distribution without riding Humble Bundle into a controversy. Humble? Absolutely not.

    As for myself, I don’t care for the type of games that they’re offering. I like to support indies because they try something different. I don’t want generic FPS #2286 and I don’t want to support the creators of such.

  • > I rarely have to use Windows, and I’m not paying for the privilege of encouraging me to do so.

    How would your opinion change if you were allowed to enter $0?

  • Thanks for the comments, everyone.

    Andy, I have a backlog of Windows games I already haven’t gotten around to playing. Free Windows games with DRM just aren’t that appealing for me to add them to that collection.

  • Thank you for calling them out on this. I also had no idea there was such a bundle until reading your article, since I am also registered as a Linux user (and didn’t receive the notification).

    I’m personally saddened to see this, but I suppose it’s the natural way of things. It wouldn’t bother me so much if they weren’t violating the standards that they marketed themselves on to begin with. I guess most people have a price, though. I can’t honestly say that I know what I would have done given a similar decision. I’m sure they were able to justify it by saying “Look at all the money we will be able to raise for charities. If we turn this down, it would be like robbing from those worthy organizations.” And perhaps that is a valid argument. Who am I to say?

    I, like you, will not be buying this bundle. My reasons are similar to yours: Lack of Linux support, inclusion of DRM, don’t generally care to fund mega-corp FPS factories. Also, one of the things that drew me to purchase previous bundles was the originality of many of the titles. None of the titles in this bundle offer that.

    I must admit, I had a lot of hope for Humble Bundle, Inc. I thought they would be able to use their success to bring about a change for the better in the industry. But it looks like they’ve given up the ability to do that moving forward.

  • Dan Brown

    I’m a Linux user who bought the bundle (and got an email when it launched).

    While I would prefer the games to run in Linux (primarily) and be DRM free it is so nice to have some affordable (for me) single player games that aren’t just more platformers and puzzle games which seems to be the indie norm. I do support indies and have bought most of the bundles to date and I’m working on my own indie game as well. But I do like a nice RTS campaign to get stuck into sometimes so rebooting into Windows is a small price to play for a well-made version and the expansions.

  • I’ll be honest, I’m not a big gamer. I rarely play games these days. Actually, Humble Bundles are my only source of games. Most of them I don’t even end up playing more than once, if that. There are some gems that I thoroughly enjoy — World of Goo being one of the best, although I also loved Osmos and I’m currently thoroughly enjoying Spaz — but by and large, I don’t get around to doing anything with most of them.

    That said, I’ve still bought more than half the bundles that have been released, because I want to support what they’re doing:

    1) DRM free
    2) Linux games
    3) Indy developers
    4) Charity
    5) Android (in some of the bundles)

    That’s why I support Humble Bundle.

    This latest release? It doesn’t have any of those attributes. No money from me.

    You’re spot on, GB.

  • The Humble Bundle crew have really improved gaming on Linux. Give them some respect. Now, you want to play the games on Linux, right?

    Steam runs “gold” under wine on Linux. Many games work, for example Terry Cavanagh’s brilliant new “Super Hexagon” runs perfectly on wine / Linux.

    I heard that at least two of these THQ bundle games do run on Linux, under wine. That’s two AAA games for a very low price. Be happy!

    As wine improves, and Steam Linux improves, and Valve develops its Linux-based console, I expect that most or all of these games will work on Linux. And, the steam keys I got with this bundle will let me play the games on Linux. And most other Steam games will work on Linux. That will be great!

    It was a very humble thing for THQ, a major software publisher, to do a humble bundle. They are certainly in a humiliating financial position. “nearly bankrupt” is pretty much “indie”, for my money. I’m a bit sorry I gave a smaller donation than usual, this time.

    The Humble Bundle people fully intend to do more regular Indie Bundles. That’s their core business. THQ asked them for help, and so they created this excellent bundle together. Sure, it’s different, it’s not native Linux ports, it’s not DRM-free. But it’s still a great deal.

    I don’t understand the kind of attitude where people are saying like “I feel betrayed! I won’t buy humble bundles any more!!1″ Those people need to show a bit of respect and gratitude. For sure they will continue buying humble bundles anyway, because they will not be able to resist all those great games.

  • If you love Linux, and dislike Steam because of DRM, please consider my opinion:

    Valve is doing more to help Linux than Linus is at the moment: they are porting Steam to Linux.

    Gaming is the ONLY reason that many of us Linux geeks continue to use Windows at all, and it’s a major reason why many Windows users will not switch to Linux.

    Valve are also working to make their engines and games, and many other Steam games, run well on Linux; and they are developing a Linux-based console.

  • “Those people need to show a bit of respect and gratitude.” This attitude is a little odd to me. DRM-free, cross-platform, independent games are what the Humble Bundle was partly about. Why should anyone feel grateful when a trusted brand does something completely different from what the brand represented? You can’t be known as the world’s best vegetarian restaurant, come out with a meat-lover’s menu, and not expect some backlash, right?

    If you don’t care about DRM or supporting indies or having native games on your preferred OS, that’s your prerogative, just like Juuso’s. Other people care about these things, and to dismiss them as disrespectful and ungrateful for caring about these things is completely missing the point. It’s like being a non-vegetarian and not understanding why vegetarians would have a problem with the (bad) analogy I mentioned earlier.

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