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.
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.
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?