Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Humble Indie Bundle: Support Charity and Indie Devs, Fight DRM, and Pay What You Want.

 I know I just talked about video games yesterday, and I make it a point to keep my content varied so people can come back at the end of a week and see if what I had to say on one or more days lines up with what they personally find interesting or not. I'll break the rule I established for myself on this occasion because this is important. If you are into the indie game scene or follow the news on certain social media sites, you may have already heard of the Humble Indie Bundle. This project is as close to a “win for everyone” as anything I've ever heard of in computer gaming. Things the average gamer claims to like: good games by smaller studios, fair pricing, companies that support good causes, and no DRM. The bundle has all these things.

It isn't just about the games, this is important to a lot of us.

The spirit of the Humble Indie Bundle is one of positivity and trust that if given the opportunity to do the right thing, most people, gamers in particular, will expend great effort to see that whoever provides that opportunity is rewarded. Games in past bundles have included such popular titles as World of Goo and Braid, which both enjoyed moderate success as downloadable titles from console services like Xbox Live Arcade and Nintendo's WiiWare Store. The pricing of these games? Whatever you want. Any amount from a single penny to thousands of dollars in US currency is a valid an accepted amount for purchase. The average chosen amount for the current bundle as of the publication of this article is $4.78, and the largest amount paid (by Notch, the creator of Minecraft) is $4048.

The current bundle, which was released July 26th and will be available until August 9th, contains the games: Crayon Physics Deluxe, And Yet It Moves, Hammerfight, VVVVVV, and Cogs. These titles are a blend of puzzle, platformer and physics-based action games. I'd previously played demos for more than one of these and I am very happy with my personal purchase of this bundle, contributing to the cause. More than half a million dollars in sales has been generated in the first day that this bundle was made available to the public, and it is set to break record sales from previous bundles (highest ever was $1.8 Million USD for Humble Indie Bundle 2.) Funds from this game (the portion allocated to developers, more on that in a bit) go directly to game developers, bypassing any middlemen.

This and Crayon Physics Deluxe are in the early running for my favorite of this Bundle.

The contribution of gamers to the success of such a bold experiment is great for the industry, and proves in some small way that the prevailing “wisdom” of the big studios that a game can't be a success without restrictive anti-piracy DRM and a $50-$60 price tag... Well, it is just plain not true. Not only can gamers set their own price, but they can decide how the money they spend is used. Through simple sliders, every gamer can choose what percentage of their personal purchase goes to the game developers, the company that hosts and pays the bandwidth bill for the bundle, and two charities. It doesn't hurt that the charities are personal favorites of mine, either.

Donations to either of these charities can be turned down or off if you don't agree with what they stand for, but that wasn't a problem for me. Child's Play, founded by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik of Penny Arcade is a charity by gamers to provide games and toys to children in hospitals, dealing with illnesses, conditions or injuries and the fear and pain that comes with them. The charity was founded in response to the public disputes between crackpot anti-game crusader Jack Thompson and Penny Arcade, as well as the entire gaming community. The other charity for the Bundle is the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization dedicated to protecting rights, especially those of free speech and privacy issues online. I've given to both of these organizations before, and will happily do so again in the future.

It is tough, considering our politically polarized society, to assign "Good" or "Evil" labels
to non-profit organizations, but I'll go ahead and say it. These are the Good Guys.

Despite the ability to “name your price” and the good causes associated with the project, there has been quite a bit of piracy associated with the bundles in years past. I've struggled with the ethical questions concerning piracy for years, and despite my views moving toward the center on this issue, the average person would still probably say that my perspective comes down on the side of the pirates. That said, I have nothing at all reasonable or nice to say about the poor excuses for human beings for whom a single penny is too much to pay in support of something like this. Titles in previous bundles suffered from piracy rates in excess of 25%, people not only taking free copies of the game, but using up all that bandwidth to transfer the files. I excuse anyone who made a large donation in anticipation of downloading multiple copies for friends unable for one or another reason to pay themselves from my opinion on this subject. I understand that the rest may never feel bad about their actions in this, but if there was ever a line to draw with what should or should not be pirated, this is it.

For people interested, the games are available for Windows, Mac OS and Linux, and come with product keys to redeem the games using either Steam or Desura, whichever you prefer. I hope that in my own small way, I can provide a little more exposure to something that is such a Good Thing.  I am contemplating running a contest of some sort in the next few days, with one or more bundles as a prize for the winner. The value and the causes are both so good that despite my being out of work for going on six months now, I'd buy a few more copies.  I'll think on that soon, but in the meantime, I have 5 new games to play.
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The Angry Lurker said...

It's a sound idea, thanks for sharing.

Alpha said...

Paid $30 for mine, felt good.

jass said...

Wonderful idea keep it up.

Support Charity

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