Humble Bundle and THQ Shake Hands, Many Heads

by Rob Williams on December 5, 2012 in Editorials & Interviews, Gaming

When Humble Bundle announced a promotion featuring THQ’s games last week, what resulted was on par with a digital atom bomb. Long-time fans of the service felt betrayed, disgusted by the fact that the people behind it would go against their core values for a profit. But before we get too hasty, let’s look at things from a couple of different angles.

The Humbling, Final Thoughts

Yes, believe it or not, there’s some good to glean from THQ’s Bundle.

First and foremost, let’s not forget that charities stand to benefit from these sales. The more successful a Bundle, the more much-needed cash gets sent to these charities. The American Red Cross has long been a supported charity, and the folks there are some of the first people on the scene when needed – especially in events like Hurricane Sandy. It’s pretty sweet to be able to donate to a charity like this and score some great games on the cheap. 

What about the gamers who don’t have a lot of money to spend on games, either due to their location, personal situation or what-have-you? I know what it’s like to be broke and have no games to play – it sucks. It’s one reason why I can appreciate the Humble Bundle, because it allows anyone to get some excellent games for what they can afford. Can’t manage more than $5? That’s no problem as far as the folks at Humble Bundle are concerned.

A Bundle like this also keeps the game selection interesting. Across the 15 or so game-specific Bundles to date (excluding THQ’s), 15 titles have been offered twice, while 5 have been offered three times. It seems clear to me that the people at Humble Bundle realized that their selection was growing a little thin, and when they want to push out a new Bundle on a very regular basis, some creative thinking has to be employed. We have seen a Bundle for eBooks and music, but I’m talking games exclusively here.

Humble Bundle Games
Select games that have appeared in more than one Bundle

One of the much-lauded benefits of the Humble Bundle is that it promotes indie games – but let’s be realistic. How many games hit these bundles that you have not heard of before? Thanks to a casual perusing of various gaming sites and the Steam homepage, it’s a rare day when even one of the listed games is new to me. This is a stark contrast to the Indie Royale bundle, where it’s rare that I’ve heard of a single one of them. Interestingly, despite Indie Royal sticking to many of the same core values as Humble Bundle, it never seems to get the same level of respect. It’s doing a better job in promoting indie titles as far as I’m concerned. It could be that for some, there’s such thing as “too” indie, but the fact that Indie Royale doesn’t push for cross-platform games like Humble Indie Bundles do could be the real problem.

If you really want to get down to it, a sale like THQ’s could prove vital for the company, which is currently dealing with a poor financial situation at the moment. While a couple of million isn’t likely to save it from potential closure, it’s something – and to me, THQ is a publisher we really don’t want to lose. Recently, it’s been responsible for the spectacular Saints Row: The Third and Darksiders II. In the past, it’s developed and published many more.

Final Thoughts

Despite all of the backlash the company behind Humble Bundle has received this past week, it has made no follow-up statements, leading me to believe that nothing is going to change for the future. There’s no reason to apologize when it’s just business as usual, of course, but further clarification on its goals couldn’t hurt.

The company’s promotion of DRM-free and cross-platform content and its focus on the indie developer sure isn’t going to change anytime soon. We may see oddball Bundles like this come and go, but I have no reason to believe that we’ll see a change of heart or a move away from what made the Bundles popular to begin with. Humble Bundle launched with these core elements for a reason – the people who created it want the same things we do. Sometimes, it’s just not possible to implement them into each and every promotion – like this one. 

It may be time for some people to get off their high horses and take a promotion like this for what it is, while appreciating all that the Humble Bundle has done for the promotion of DRM-free content and the indie developer up to this point and for its promotion of these things going forward.

All that said, whether or not this mess will truly affect the Humble Bundle in the long-run, we’ll have to wait and see.