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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Humble THQ Bundle

The Humble Bundle guys are at it again, this time offering the "Humble THQ Bundle" to the masses. You can pay whatever you want (as long as it's a minimum of $1) for the following titles:

  • Darksiders
  • Metro 2033
  • Red Faction Armageddon
  • Company of Heroes
  • CoH: Opposing Fronts
  • CoH: Tales of Valor
  • Saints Row The Third* (* if you beat the ~$5.50 average)

This deal is straight up ridiculous and probably has something to do with the financial dilemma that the publisher finds itself in. THQ has already laid off a bunch of people and delayed a few games; the future doesn't exactly look bright at this point.

Humble Bundles traditionally offer DRM-free downloads of games on Windows, OSX, and Linux for as little as 1 cent. This time around there's a minimum of $1 and all of the games are Windows-only and tied to Steam. Several people (see: Ars Technica, The Penny Arcade Report) have been making a lot of noise claiming that Humble Bundle has sold out and destroyed their reputation by partnering with a AAA publisher for this bundle. Ben Kuchera of The PA Report said that "[this] isn’t a Humble Bundle, it’s a Steam sale." This seems a little bit like grandstanding to me.

Whenever I spot a deal on /r/GameDeals that doesn't offer Steam keys, there will inevitably be a bunch of people grumbling about this in the comments. My game library weighs in at 130-ish games right now; at this point, having random games floating around that aren't tied to Steam or Origin is more of an inconvenience than being forced to open Steam every time I want to play something. There's DRM, and then there's experience-crippling, makes-me-want-to-just-pirate-it DRM. Steam is decidedly not in the latter category, so this really shouldn't be a big deal.

Then there's the complaint about these games not being offered on multiple platforms. Kyle Orland or Ars Technica said, "[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." Theoretically, a relatively tiny website could strongarm a AAA publisher into forcing code monkeys to churn out OSX and Linux ports so that the 100 or so people who game on those platforms could reward them with ~$1000 in sales. Sounds like a fantastic proposition. Additionally, I haven't met many Linux users who don't dual-boot Windows to begin with. The whole "Steam for Linux" thing might improve the gaming landscape over there eventually, but right now it's pretty much a fact of life that you'll need to do your serious gaming in Windows (or use something like Wine).

Those heralding Humble Bundle as some sort of "champion of the little guy" should probably take a step back and look at some of the games offered in recent Humble Bundles. Amnesia? LIMBO? Torchlight? Psychonauts? These aren't exactly unknown titles struggling to find a foothold in a competitive market. These are more like "AAA Indie" games (AA games?) than anything else. Indie Royale seems more like the place for bundles that introduce little-known games to the public. Hell, I haven't even heard of 4 of the games in that bundle (sorry, developers).

In the end, Humble Bundles allow people to pick up games for next to nothing. It's great that they give money to charity, but let's be honest: if you really wanted to donate to Child's Play you'd do it without expecting games in return. This is all about making money, and that really doesn't bother me. The beauty of the pay-what-you-want model is that it draws in people who would never think about purchasing your product otherwise. I never end up playing half of the games that I purchase through Humble Bundles, but outside of these bundles I probably wouldn't have purchased any of them. My $1 or $10 or whatever is profit that these developers would have never seen otherwise.

I don't know why, but all this criticism of the Humble THQ Bundle really rubbed me the wrong way. If you're so upset, don't buy in. It's as simple as that.


  1. Yeah I agree with you!

    Steam offers major benefits, it is almost better than DRM-free anyway. The only major advantage of DRM-free over steam is that it facilitates pirating the games!

    Steam runs "gold" on wine under Linux. I installed "Super Hexagon" (from Terry "VVVVVV" Cavanagh) like this and it runs perfectly.

    I heard that at least two of the THQ bundle games do run well on Linux under wine. So that's two AAA Linux-compatible games for ~ $5. Steam should not be an obstacle to that.

    I fully expect that more of the games will work on Linux in the near future. Valve seems to be very interested in Linux, and are developing a Linux-based console. They are working on DirectX -> GL conversion for their own games, very successfully, and I guess they will work on improving wine too.


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