Humble Bundle: Best Thing, or Worst for Indie?

Current Humble Bundle up is the Humble Indie Bundle 12, featuring:

  • SteamWorld Dig
  • Hammerwatch
  • Gunpoint
  • [BTA] Papers, Please
  • [BTA] LUFTRAUSERS
  • [BTA] Gone Home
  • [BTA] ???
  • [$10+] Prison Architect

Prison Architect by itself is a $29.99 Early Release game that has only ever hit $9.99 before… in Humble Bundle’s own store, in fact. So for the price of that one game, you get at least four other titles that have made some waves (i.e. Gaming Journalism™) in the indie scene: Gunpoint, Papers Please, LUFTRAUSERS, and Gone Home. Granted, most of these were topical back in 2013, but still, those four games were on my watch list (and I even bought two of them last year) without even considering Prison Architect.

As some Reddit commenters point out though, it is precisely bundles like this one that cement the “bundle or bust” mentality that surrounds indie games. I mean, let’s face it, I probably shouldn’t be buying any more games anyway, but it’s to the point these days that I don’t even bother checking Steam sales for most of these titles. If I hadn’t bought Gunpoint and Papers, Please last year, I could have gotten even more consumer surplus for that sweaty Hamilton. Which makes me think “maybe I should remove Transistor, Spelunky, Banished, Child of Light, and Ironclad Tactics from my Steam wishlist and wait for a bundle sale.”

Is that good for, well, anybody? I’ll save some dollars at the expense of being topical and relevant, perhaps. I suppose the creators of SteamWorld Dig and Hammerwatch get a win in the form of a “sale” that they would likely have never made otherwise. Who knows, maybe I’ll find those games super fun and end up eagerly awaiting their next release? Of course, by “eagerly awaiting” I likely mean eagerly waiting for the next bundle.

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Posted on September 10, 2014, in Commentary and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I guess it depends on where the breakpoint is between sales volume vs price. I am not entirely sure how much it costs the developers to distribute their products once they are complete – presumably they are not spending much on the game any more, they’d be in cost recovery mode, if not into profit territory. So given that a) they’ve made the majority of full price sales by now in the months after release, and b) at time of writing the humble bundle 12 is approaching 100k sales (less than a day into a 2 week promotion), I would guess that even if each developer only gets about 50 cents per sale on average, they would be more than happy with a (conservative estimate) $100k revenue dump. The early access developers would surely welcome a rapid injection of funds too, no?

    The question, then, is: would they have done better than that $100k over the last year or so of normal price sales if no bundle schemes existed? That’s without even factoring in the now-regular twice-yearly Steam sales, which also contributes to the “don’t buy it at release” mentality. On the one hand, more people would have bought some of the games at full price, meaning some devs would have been rewarded more heavily, but on the other hand there are a lot of people who would not have bought any games in the bundle at full price, not to mention people who buy these bundles so they can gift the games to friends or as prizes.

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  2. Bundles and Steam sales kind of ruin games purchasing for me. Games I’m super excited about I buy at release (and those games tend to be on console as opposed to PC). But for the rest, I feel like I need to wait until they are on sale. It’s kind of funny, I’m perfectly happy (well, not happy, but willing) to shell out $70 for the newest XBox game but a regularly priced, $15 Steam indie game makes me go “woah, 15 dollars! I’ll wait for a sale.” The sales/bundles are just so prevalent and reduce the price by so much, it seems like a waste to pay full price. But at the same time, I feel bad for not paying the full price to an indie developer if I like the game. Many mixed feelings on this.

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