Humble Indie Bundle Hits One Million In Sales… Goes Open Source

from the something-special-each-day dept

We were just talking about how the Humble Indie Bundle of video games continued to exceed expectations by doing things to make fans like them even more — such as adding more games to the bundle after people had already bought — and comparing that to EA’s strategy of limiting the resale market with coded content. One strategy involves exceeding expectations and giving people reason to be excited (and reasons to be happy to spend) and the other… does not.

As the official “one week” Humble Indie Bundle offer comes to a close (though, they’ll still keep offering it afterwards), it’s nice to see that the effort easily soared past the $1 million mark (including over $300,000 going to charities — including the EFF). But, beyond that, Wolfire continues to make things even cooler for people. First, it open sourced one of the games, and followed that up by announcing that three others are also going open source (World of Goo is remaining closed, as is the late addition of Samorost 2). Once again, the focus is on doing things that excite the community, build loyalty and give people a reason to want to buy, rather than making people feel guilty or annoyed about buying.

There really are tremendous lessons here for anyone building a business today: focus on ways to delight your customers, rather than pissing them off; and focus on giving people real reasons to buy, rather than just feeling entitled to define the terms under which they buy and looking for ways to limit those who want to interact with you in a different manner.

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Comments on “Humble Indie Bundle Hits One Million In Sales… Goes Open Source”

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Anonymous Coward says:

“including over $300,000 going to charities — including the EFF”

Excellent, so not only are they creating an ethical business model, but they are also funding the efforts of those who seek to create and maintain a legal system that enables ethical business models to succeed against the big corporate efforts that seek to lobby for a legal system that unethically benefits them unfairly. Good news, it seems like we are finally beginning to organize ourselves, and the funds necessary, to combat our corrupt system.

RD says:

But Mike!

But…but Mike…it CANT WORK! These kinds of things CAN NOT work unless you have a major studio behind you and locking all your content up behind severe DRM and super-restrictive copyright! NO ONE WOULD MAKE ANY GAMES OTHERWISE!! NO ONE CAN MAKE MONEY WITHOUT THESE!! AND, even then, the ONLY people this would work for are people who are ALREADY BIG AND HUGE thanks to studio backing! IT CANT WORK!!

(Did I hit all the luddite defeatist TAM rhetoric talking points?)

Michael Whitetail says:

Re: But Mike!

Sarcasim, I know, but it’s still funny that you should mention this. All the posts over at slashdot are saying the same old tired bs of “Well yeah this worked, *this time!* but it’ll only work for small indie dev/publishers.”

There is no fundamental difference in these software titles than there is in the music scene of late: I.e. offering DRM free titles and giving the fans a reason to buy. We have seen it work at all levels; big, medium, and small. So in my opinion, there is nothing here that wouldn’t work on for all the dev houses.

There is something for everyone to learn in this experiment, and its just what Mike has been saying all along: CwF + RtB = PROFIT????

awd says:

Samorost is Flash, so I don’t see it becoming open source any time soon. Besides, it’s not the kind of game that would benefit much from open sourcing it.

World of Goo could use a few more levels, but that also wouldn’t benefit much from making it open source.

Lugaru has a lot of space for improvement, however, though I can’t say how much can be done with a game that involves giant bipedal rabbits punching each other. The other games in the bundle will also benefit greatly from being open source.

Btw, does nobody see a connection between this development and how Linux users were the most generous in this experiment?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Well they’ve certainly found a way to generate huge Linux user loyalty going forward. I was just saying the other day that about the only way they could’ve made this more enticing for Linux users would be to make it open source. Now, the Linux crowd is going to be watching these developers even more closely because they have a history of contributing back to the community when it’s economically feasible to do so.

senshikaze (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I am a linux user and hit waaay above the averages for all of them (of course nowhere near the maximums of 3333.33$ and 1337.00$. I think it is hilarious that on the whole the “freetards”, linux users paid more than the same number of windows users. I hope more companies do this kind of thing. I personally think it was an awesome deal. the games are so so, but i spent the same for all of these that it would cost me to get a new Wii game anyway, so i feel i came out ahead. and i got to support the EFF and a charity I try to support yearly, Child’s Play.

Anonymous Coward says:

as per usual, its a wonderful story a little lacking in depth. most importantly is does this truly build a business, or just help some people who would have given their work away anyway to make money by playing the charity card? in the end, shouldnt we all be a little disappointed to find out that they pretty much gave away 3/5ths of the offer after they got your money? if anything, if i had paid specifically to get one of those games, i would be upset to find out that the day after its free. way to connect with your fans, who will wait until your next game is free before picking it up, or just steal a copy from a torrent site next time with no consideration for your business models. nice!

MindParadox says:

Re: Re: Re:

i payed for it, and am enjoying it. i think its pretty cool they made some of the games open source the day after i bought it, of course, i dont have the mentality that just because i paid for something, everyone else should pay as much or more than i did either

not sure where people get that attitude, but i wish theyd all go somewhere and try to out stingy each other where i dont have to be subjected to them 😛

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

When Blender did the same thing, I don’t think anyone felt “sponged off”. The people who gave money to open source Blender benefited themselves more than enough for the transaction to make sense for them. If other parties benefit in the process, great. It’s Win-Win-Win, rather than Win-Win-Nothing.
By the same token, nobody has lost anything. The people who donated more felt the thing had more value that $0.01 because of reasons other than the base price. To them the open sourcing is either irrelevant or a bonus.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

that then makes you a rtb victim. make them rich enough and everyone else can sponge off of you. great logic,

However studies have shown that giving stuff away improves your mental and physical health.

What you have paid for is a longer and happier life – which cannot be taken away from you!

Ever heard of “treasure in heaven”?

Nick Coghlan (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The prebuilt games still cost money. They also only open sourced the code, while the game art is provided under a non-commercial use license.

So you can get the games for free, *if* you’re in a position to pull the source from Mercurial and build them yourself. Most people don’t how to do that, and many of those that do will quite happily pay someone else to do it for them. Plus, as is frequently mentioned around here, getting games (even DRM heavy ones) for free is a trivial task for any even remotely tech savvy PC gamer.

See, this is what connecting with fans means: we give the developers money because we like what they’re providing and the way they’re providing it, and want them to continue doing what they’re doing.

(Hell, I’d already bought World of Goo on Steam ages ago and still gave the WoG developers a cut of my contribution to this deal)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

They open sourced it as a reward for all the people who paid the total of over a million dollars. If anything, I see this as getting a bonus. It’s not that I could’ve gotten it cheaper ($0.00 rather than $0.01 were I a cheapskate) by waiting, it’s that I now get the bonus feature of their source code. That’s value for me, and I’m sure a lot of other Linux users will agree on that.

P.S. To clarify one point though, they’re still selling their games, but the source code is now open source and some of the art assets are available under a non-commercial license.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“if anything, if i had paid specifically to get one of those games, i would be upset to find out that the day after its free”

source code does not equal the art,music and voice work that’s an integral part of these games, those things are NOT free and will still be charged for.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Any of these games could easily have been obtained at no charge the entire time this experiment was going on by anyone who wanted them. Everyone who paid knew that, and still paid. Clearly it’s not just about the game, and no one has any reason to be upset by these developments. This whole thing is awesome all around.

Marcel de Jong (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Firstly, the games will still be ‘for pay’ even though the source code is available. It’s free as in speech, not free as in beer.

Secondly, this ADDS value to the products I just bought. It’s not as if they forbid me access to the source code because I donated to the cause before they opened it.

These people put their money where there mouth is, and PROVE that you can make money by not pissing off their customers. When are you going to do that?

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re:

That is the reason they were successful and you would not have been. They have gotten very few complaints like the one you are suggesting. The overwhelming majority of the customers who paid them are happy to see the games go open source.

The fact that your scenario is valid, and could be a complaint is completely irrelevant because so few of their fans made the complaint.

They have connected with their fans because they UNDERSTOOD them and their community. They understood that the customers that just paid for the games would see the games going open source as an added benefit rather than seeing it as slight to those who just paid.

This is the heart of CwF. It is also the reason that a good company can produce easily copied products and have a working business model. Although it is easy to take their current games and resell them or copy them, they understand their target audience better than the guys that can “steal” their ideas – and that understanding will always keep them ahead of the competition.

Thad says:

Re: Re:

@Anonymous Coward: “in the end, shouldnt we all be a little disappointed to find out that they pretty much gave away 3/5ths of the offer after they got your money? if anything, if i had paid specifically to get one of those games, i would be upset to find out that the day after its free.”

Lugaru is not free-as-in-beer. The engine has been open-sourced but the content is still for-pay, similar to Doom and any number of other games that have been open-sourced over the years. License details haven’t been announced for Aquaria, Gish, or Penumbra yet, but I assume they’ll be similar.

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: Re:

… the difference depends on how EA is running their scheam. mass effect 2 was simply ‘pay extra once to get bonus stuff’. however, other instances of the same system (not sure if it was EA or not) were ‘pay extra or miss out on core stuff that should have been in the game right from the get go’. the entire point in the exercise is to eat into the used game market, which is detrimental to customer satisfaction and budget, And EA’s long term bottom line, And the shops who serve as the hub for said market.

in the case of these Indie games, they are making the content more accessible, not less.

it has nothing to do with the size of the company, and everything to do with the dubious logic behind the actions and the positive and negative effects of said actions.

EA’s actions are, at best, neutral and irrelevant. a nice bonus, but not going to bring them any extra attention (has the number of games that provide extra, ‘pay to get this via the console’s network’ stuff exceeded those that don’t yet?) as it’s been done before. at worst it is equivilant to ‘you bought this software and now we’ll sue you if you ever install it on a second machine or have a second user use it on the same machine, ever’ … which has already been shown to be stupid.

the indie bundle, at least as presented here, is ‘hey, guys, you know that cool, hassle free stuff we were offering before, which you payed us for? well, now there’s more of it, and, bonus, if you want to we’re going to give you the tools you need to make it more awesome if you so desire’ which is to say, at worst, it does nothing (roughly analogous to EA’s best result) and at best… ok, i’ve no got a complete grasp on the possiblities here, but it would Seem to be that other people can make more games, or mods, or whatever, to the games, adding value at 0 cost.

hopefully someone a bit more knowledgeable than i in that department can clarify the last bit. I’m not a programmer.

that said, if you can’t understand the distinction, that’s a problem with your thinking, because the two situations are quite different.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

What are you going on about? When has providing extra stuff ever punished potential customers? The worst case scenario is that you punish people who’ve already become customers, at which EA has not been particularly friendly. You might want to run through that remark again; doing this in advance prevents you from looking like an idiot who’s missed the point.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Ok, let’s compare the two:

Humble Indie Bundle:

– You get 5 Games
– You only pay what you want
– You can decide who the money goes to
– You get no DRM and no nastyware
– They run on Windows, Linux and Mac
– Some of the games have gone open-source (or will go open-source)
– The games are decent (subjective)


– You get a locked up game…
– …with no prospects of ever being “open” or “moddable”…
– …loaded with DRM and who knows what more…
– …runs on windows…maybe…
– …and only has half the features
– You can pay top $$$ for the *privilege* of having a complete game
– In the end, you get the same EA sports crap (subjective)

Guess who my money’s going to?

Marcel de Jong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

In Humble Indie Bundle’s case, they add value to the same package by adding an extra game and adding source code of a few of the games to the package.
Basically giving me 2 more reasons to buy the package.

In EA’s case, they ask more money for the privilege of playing a second hand game.

How are those two even remotely the same?

And in the case of EA, it’s indeed punishing their customers. Because if I were to download a pirated copy, I wouldn’t need to pay extra to play it.
But if I were to buy that game second hand (which is perfectly legal), I’d have to pay extra to be allowed to play that game, basically equaling the price of a second hand game to that of a retail first hand game. What would be the point for me to buy that package? What would be my reason to buy it in that case?

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

So when tiny starving content creators provide something extra to buyers who buy from them (even something as intangible as a good feeling) that is lauded as a “RtB,” but when a giant company like EA does it they are punishing potential customers.

I thought I was clear, so I apologize if the differences between the two approaches was not evident. It certainly has nothing to do with the size of the company involved — not even close. I’ve happily talked up plenty of smart business model decisions by big companies.

The issue here is simply the nature of the promotion. In the case of the Humble Indie Bundle, it’s focused on not trying to restrict what anyone can do (hell, you can get everything for free if you want and they don’t care). It’s about giving people a good reason why they proactive *want* to give money to the company.

EA on the other hand, is working on a business model that is the opposite of that. It’s focused on blocking people from doing what they want. It’s a model based on restrictions in an attempt to leave them no choice, but to pay (if reluctantly).

I think the difference is pretty self-evident, but if you still think they’re the same, perhaps you could explain why.

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