Humble Indie Bundle Keeps Getting Better, Exceeding Expectations

from the how-business-should-be-done dept

Last week, we wrote about Wolfire Game’s Humble Indie Bundle offering (though, amusingly, since then, it’s been submitted over and over again — with some people saying they’re amazed we hadn’t written about it yet), where five four indie games were offered up in a “pay what you want” bundle. I was among those who paid up and downloaded the games (though, for some reason the “big draw” game World of Goo refuses to work on my computer). Over the weekend, I was surprised to get an email telling me that another game was now available as a part of the bundle. It appears that some other indie developers wanted to join in on the fun, and so everyone who already paid now also gets access to that other game, Samorost 2, from Amanita Design. This was pretty cool on a number of levels. At a time when so many video game developers are freaking out about people getting anything for free, these game developers are rewarding people who did pay by giving them more for free.

Think about the basic conceptual differences in approach here. You can spend all your time trying to punish negative behavior, or you can focus on rewarding positive behavior. Which strategy is likely to win more loyal fans in the long run?

Along those lines, a bunch of folks have also sent over Wolfire’s blog post revealing some back-of-the-envelope states on “piracy” of the game, suggesting that some folks were clearly sharing the download links and downloading more than single copies of the games. The discussion is pretty matter of fact, and basically recognizes there are a whole bunch of reasons why people might do this. But the really important part of the post is the fact that Wolfire doesn’t seem particularly bothered by this, and knows that the focus should be providing more value for those who want to pay and want to support the games:

What are we going to do about it?

Not much.

Shouldn’t we use a percentage of the proceeds to send our indie-lawyers after them? Perhaps trace their IP addresses?

No — we will just focus on making cool games, having great customer service, and hope for the best. It sure seems to be working right now!

….

Making the download experience worse for generous contributors in the name of punishing pirates doesn’t really fit with the spirit of the bundle. When considering any kind of DRM, we have to ask ourselves, “How many legitimate users is it ok to inconvenience in order to reduce piracy?” The answer should be none.

And that, right there, is an encapsulation of the different mindsets in the market today: do you spend all your time setting up reasons for people to buy, encouraging positive incentives… or do you focus just on punishing those doing things you don’t like (even if they would never buy?). Oddly, some are focusing on the fact that the games were still pirated as some sort of condemnation of “pirates,” but that doesn’t make sense. If anything it shows that there are reasons other than money that people download unauthorized copies (i.e., contrary to certain claims, it’s not just about “free stuff.”) Sure, anything you put out digitally is going to get pirated. Who cares? The focus should be on key metrics: how much money did you actually make (and as of this posting the numbers are already pushing $750,000) and how many more loyal fans did you bring into the fold? Who cares that some people are still sharing the games for free? Those people are not the ones who matter.

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Companies: wolfire games

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Comments on “Humble Indie Bundle Keeps Getting Better, Exceeding Expectations”

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53 Comments
Brian (profile) says:

Awesome Bundle

I purchased the bundle before they added the newest Samorost 2 game. One, it’s a great deal for software. I have been looking for a few good games for my PC, I was also looking for something in budget… bingo! The great point is that you can specify how much goes towards the developers and the charity, so if you wanted to do it just for the charity reasons, you get good games.
The whole point is that they care more about putting out good games than going after pirates. If you are replacing the games with good sequels instead of worrying about DRM and chasing pirates your games will be better and people won’t complain as much.
Love the bundle, love the concept, waiting anxiously to see if the rest of the markets take this ideal.

Simple Folk says:

“The focus should be on key metrics: how much money did you actually make (and as of this posting the numbers are already pushing $750,000) and how many more loyal fans did you bring into the fold? Who cares that some people are still sharing the games for free? Those people are not the ones who matter.”

That’s what I want, when I do as asked and pay for games – to be SHOWN that I matter because of it. I don’t see it from the bigs – I get sob sister stories of piracy and five kinds of DRM and hoops-jumping and denials and nickel pinching and half-done glitchfests and circular hells of tech support lip service for a much larger price tag and I’m done with ’em because of that.

I put in 10 bucks for each Humble Indie dev and each charity – bucks I didn’t have to spend – to show gratitude as well as appreciation for their efforts and skill. And I’ll do it again for whatever they offer next in a heartbeat.

Nastybutler77 (profile) says:

Can't say Linux users are cheap

I like how the site has the breakdown of how much the average payment per person has been by platform. When I downloaded it over the weekend Linux users by far contributed the most per DL with Mac second and Win a distant third at around $7 per/DL. That strikes me as interesting since Linux is open source and according to the entertainment industry open source is nothing but people looking for free stuff.

paperbag (profile) says:

Re: Contrast ARS Technica

Yea, the Ars Technica article is totally BS. “Ripped Off” ?? I want to be ripped off and make $750k please.

Apparently, this is how Ars works. I used to be a fan of that site but after the advertisement fiasco and their constant bashing in stories like this, not so much anymore. It is a shame too because they have some real talent there.

Sadly too, their user base (based on comments to the story) totally buys into the article and calls everyone thieves, stealers, robbers, etc.

I wish I had an account at Ars, just to show this story and tell them to shove it. But, it’s too much work to make an account at yet another website that doesn’t care.

Forge says:

I bought mine at 20$ the first day I saw it. I figured 4 good games at 5$ each was fair, even though I already owned World of Goo (which is lots of fun, BTW). If I’d known it was going to five games, I would have paid 25$. Guess I’ll have to “buy” again, though I’m worried about skewing the average price down.

FWIW, I got the email for Samorost 2 and forwarded it to a good friend, told her she could have my copy of that one. She’s now going to buy the bundle too. ๐Ÿ™‚

EA! Activision! Take note! I’m a die-hard pirate, and I’m BUYING their bundle! Nyah! Down with DRM! Trust your customers and they will trust you!

lux (profile) says:

This sounds like a great business model for folks who don’t like money.

Radiohead tried with this with their ‘In Rainbows’ album, and clinched a spot on the ‘101 Dumbest Business’ moves:

http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2007/fortune/0712/gallery.101_dumbest.fortune/59.html

If only we could hear a follow up about Wolfire in 3 years time, once all the buzz dies down, then we’ll see how great of an idea this is.

Jason says:

Re: Re:

The problem with that analogy is that all of these games have been sold elsewhere before, have made money before. These aren’t new releases. All of the developers have already moved on to their next projects, so how can re-releasing old games with combined marketing and a great hook (pay what you want, give to charity) possibly hurt them?

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

This sounds like a great business model for folks who don’t like money.

Hmm. In about a week it’s brought in nearly a million dollars… from the types of people who rarely pay for stuff online. That seems to go against that point.

Radiohead tried with this with their ‘In Rainbows’ album, and clinched a spot on the ‘101 Dumbest Business’ moves:

Yes, despite the fact it made Radiohead more money than all their previous digital releases combined?

I think the only thing that article showed is why CNN/Fortune’s list of “dumbest business” moves was pretty dumb itself.

Wesha (profile) says:

Mike, you’re misisng one more important point here.

THE TOP CONTRIBUTIONS BOARD.

I, for one, am really tempted to pay $1001 to get on the top (I can afford it =^.^=)

And, since I started watching it, a few guys already paid “more than the other guy” to displace some (lesser ones) of the top 10.

So it’s not only feeling good for donating, but recognition/bragging rights, too. It’s one of the drivers, you know?

Anonymous Coward says:

Interesting "conclusion" reached.

This model doesn’t seem comparative since many people are drawn to giving to charities. I know many of these indy shops have 5-10 staff, in which case $700K isn’t going to begin to cover costs for the amount of time they’ve put into it.

A cute effort. What is interesting is how Linux users gave so much more.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Interesting "conclusion" reached.

This model doesn’t seem comparative since many people are drawn to giving to charities. I know many of these indy shops have 5-10 staff, in which case $700K isn’t going to begin to cover costs for the amount of time they’ve put into it.

You seem unfamiliar with the concept of incremental revenue. The games are older games that have been out for a while…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Interesting "conclusion" reached.

Then by all means why don’t they do this for newly released games? This method shows a lack of confidence. In fact, has any publisher relied on this method solely? No, they have other distribution methods like Steam and other online DRM schemes.

Again, a cute experiment, and I find it admirable, but by no means are they going to rely on this method again long-term. Especially because people will grow bored of the “I’m an indy starving artist please help meee!”

Nastybutler77 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Interesting "conclusion" reached.

“No, they have other distribution methods like Steam and other online DRM schemes.”

I don’t believe any of these publishers ever used any DRM even when the games were new.

“Then by all means why don’t they do this for newly released games?”

Maybe after seeing how well people responded to this bundle, the developers might begin to do this for newly released games.

“by no means are they going to rely on this method again long-term.”

And you know this how?

paperbag (profile) says:

Why I didn't buy

Here is why I didn’t buy. Yes I understand this is a bundle, but a choice to leave out specific game devs would have been nice. Maybe overcomplicated, but nice.

I already have World Of Goo. There is no way to pick and choose what game(s) I want. I don’t feel up to paying for World of Goo twice. So everyone loses here. I’m to lazy to even go pirate the other games.

I could be rude and give all the money to charity, but that isn’t fair to the other developers.

I don’t pay for most things twice, that’s my hard stance. I’ll just have to wait until the next bundle comes around.

Anyone else not buy because they didn’t want to pay for a game twice? Anyone own all the games and pay the devs twice for them?

Michael Whitetail says:

Re: Re: Why I didn't buy

Are you daft man? You could name your own price from 1 cent upto $1000 or more dollars. Each game has its own download link.

You could have simply paid what you thought was fair for the other games and been done with it. No buying anything twice; you wouldn’t even have to download goo since you already have it.

Laziness is not an excuse here, it’s really ignorance, and in your case, it isn’t bliss.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Why I didn't buy

I simply paid what I thought the bundle was worth, minus what I’d already paid for the games I already owned.

The money all went to the devs, because I want them to profit; I didn’t care to nitpick over who got what amount exactly, as long as the total revenue gained was sufficient.

Greg says:

There seems to be a common thread in all these stories: content ‘piracy’, the war on drugs, welfare scams, etc. People get so outraged by any possibility of the ‘cheaters’ (whether they be ‘pirates’ getting free stuff, addicts getting free treatment instead of jail time, welfare cheats scamming the system, etc.) gaining any benefit from the activity, that they refuse to even consider that it might just be a net positive to let them do so. Instead, it seems like a huge proportion of people believe that they can prevent these benefits to the cheaters by implementing tighter controls (DRM, the war on drugs & encompanying massive incarceration rates, outrage over tax money going to cheats & resulting cuts to social programs, etc.) It seems like we continually shoot ourselves in the foot by reimplementing these controls rather than just freeing the processes and dealing with the ‘cheaters’ in more positive ways: rewarding people who purchase content, treating addicts and thus keeping them out of prison and re-integrating them into society, offering job training programs for welfare recipients, etc.

The attempts to use negative reinforcement-based control techniques seem to have failed spectacularly, so why do we keep trying them? There will always be cheats/scammers in any system, so trying to eliminate them 100% through control will just eliminate the intended benefit of the system, no?

Blake (profile) says:

I already have World of Goo & Gish. So I only contributed a minimal amount. Mostly to try out the underwater one. Got it the first day or two after it came out :p

It was only on the weekend when I took my mac laptop out on a road-trip and was looking for some games to play with no net access. (Normally I’d just play some flash games or WoW on the mac) So I installed these on the mac and its awesome.

I wish I had donated more, infact there are still a few hours left on the clock so I might do it again but flag it as a Mac purchase ๐Ÿ˜€

Andrew F (profile) says:

The first penny

It’s interesting reading the comments on their blog. Apparently, some people who didn’t pay even a penny because:

(1) The payment systems offered didn’t work for them
(2) They’re kids who hate asking their parents if they can use their credit card.

The first penny is always the hardest. There’s probably a great opportunity for those willing to cater to those who want to “pay” through non-monetary means — e.g. read scanned text to help improve OCR technology a la reCaptcha.

frodus says:

Pathetic

Further proof that pirates while always whining about being “freedom fighters” for “Digital rights” are in fact a bunch of pathetic maggots. I mean this was to support the EFF who are fighting in the courts to prevent restrictive software trade practices AND to help children… CHILDREN! I mean come ON! This isn’t EA or Activision or Microsoft you are screwing this is little kids and the people you claim to be fighting for!

A long time ago when the entire Napster revolution took hold I was all over it like a fat kid on a smartie but a few years later I started DJing and have not pirated ONE song since. Why? Because I was making a profit on some one elses work and it has become so affordable to pick up what you’re looking for it’s just not cool. With alternate options to give money to the creators without going through a middle man I don’t.

About the same time I got a job working in a software company I stopped pirating software. As a person who has now worked in two development houses I know people work long and hard on software development and it’s not the huge mega-corps like EA and Activision you are hurting but the little people, and then the scumbags who claim they are just fighting tyranical DRM spit on children like this it just further proves there are a bunch of people out there who are not worthy of being called human.

Matt (profile) says:

Re: Pathetic

As a DJ you pay for derivative work rights and sync rights, not just the basic cost of a CD, right? Your software company pays patent royalties on its UI, right? No one has ever “pirated” music or software. Some people have appropriated music or software in ways that protectionist lobbyists have managed to persuade legislators to declare illegal. There is a difference, both moral and legal.

No one ever bought your music or your software because doing so was legal – they bought it because they liked the music or software. You do not make money by being pro-copyright, you make money by producing better music or software. On the flipside, you do not lose money when or because people disagree with your misinformed stance on copyright.

Also, flame bait.

Ben (profile) says:

Thanks Mike!

I just wanted to say thanks for letting me know about this offer. I hadn’t heard of this before this post, so I went over and put my money down.
I have heard of world of goo before, and it has been on my list of games to buy ever since I tried the demo, so this clinched it. If anyone is interested, I paid 15 bucks, split 10 to developers and 5 to the EFF (I have already donated to child’s play earlier this past year).
I think this is a great way of mixing all aspects involved:
– Platform agnostic (almost went of the linux version, but I have windows in more places)
– Selectable charity output (the custom sliders are great)
– Statistics of what has been done so far (give the purchaser more information to make an informed choice)

Overall I am looking forward to getting home and trying my new games tonight. Hopefully more offers like this come up again and I will be sure to keeping an eye on these developers for any new games they might have.

TechWeasel (profile) says:

This was the one time that my lady made me spend more on video games than I otherwise would have. I was about to put down $20 but she made me put down $25. And I’d already paid for World of Goo on Steam.

Excellent, excellent thing. Everyone wins; the charities, the developers and the consumers. Plus, now I’m very likely to buy the next two games in the Penumbra series.

Anonymous Coward says:

The Stick vs. the Carrot

You can spend all your time trying to punish negative behavior, or you can focus on rewarding positive behavior. Which strategy is likely to win […] in the long run?

When are people going to realize that the stick doesn’t work? It doesn’t work in interrogations, it doesn’t work when disciplining children, it doesn’t work when training pets, it doesn’t work to enforce the law, it doesn’t work to discourage “piracy”, it simply doesn’t work. Positive reinforcement is the only effective behavior modification strategy.

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