Disclaimer: The opinions and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions and viewpoints of Neoseeker.
The Humble THQ Bundle went live this morning, offering seven titles at pay-what-you-want prices. Unlike previous bundles, however, the THQ bundle does away with some of the typically core tenets that the Humble Bundle is known for (with certain exceptions). Specifically, the bundle is only available for Windows via Steam-activated product codes and the games included are coming from a large-scale publisher. In other terms, it's not DRM free, it's not available on multiple platforms like Linux or Mac, and it's certainly not indie.
As a result, some prominent gaming personalities like Ars Technica's Kyle Orland and the Penny Arcade Report's Ben Kuchera have taken issue, going so far as to say the decision is damaging or even ruinous to the Humble Bundle brand. Orland summarizes his thoughts on the matter here:
"Building a successful brand is tough, but ruining a successful brand can be distressingly easy. By effectively ignoring many of the elements that made the Humble Bundle interesting and different in the first place, the Humble THQ Bundle risks irreparably harming what is currently a nearly unimpeachable brand in the world of game sales and distribution."
The implication of course is that the Humble Bundle has made an ideological misstep and that the founders of the project should hold themselves to a higher standard. While neither Orland or Kuchera go as far as saying the Humble Bundle should expect negative consequences for their decisions, they both make it clear they believe the organization deserves a degree of public scrutiny.
Since the bundle's launch and both Orland's and Kuchera's articles went live the Humble THQ Bundle has set a potentially record pace for sales, breaking $1 million across 180,000 bundles in less than 5 hours. While the Humble THQ Bundle's success certainly doesn't discount Orland or Kuchera's point of view, it should be grounds for further reflection. Obviously there's a very large audience who find value in what the Humble Bundle has provided and are willing to pay to support it.
Sing along with me: it's pay what you want, DRM free, cross platform and helps charity. This is the jingle that typically accompanies the Humble Indie Bundle, but it's less of a manifesto than a specifically designed recipe for independent games. The system capitalizes on aspects of independent development that make it unique, including lower prices, the scale of development, and the closeness of the community. However, it's important to remember that at its heart the Humble Bundle is a service to provide great games at an affordable price for the sake of supporting future game development and charity.
Instead of focusing on what the Humble THQ Bundle doesn't include, it's important to consider what it does. Namely, it creates a compromise between the ideals of the Humble Indie Bundle and the ridged structure of triple-A development. The heart of the service is still there and maybe better than ever, with 7 amazing games and a percentage of each sale potentially going to charity. In this regard, when taking into consideration how fast bundles are selling, the Humble THQ Bundle may be the most significant Humble Bundle yet.
Keep in mind that THQ may very well be on the brink of insolvency. There's even the not far-fetched possibility that THQ's future rests in part on the success of the Humble THQ Bundle, whether through direct profit or in creating the brand value to attract outside financial support. At the least, the Humble Bundle is doing some small part in working to ensure THQ stays solvent, and that Metro: Last Light, South Park: The Stick of Truth, Company of Heroes 2 and the Next Great Sequel in the Saints Row Franchise reach their launch dates. Is that the Humble Bundle's responsibility? No, but I'd say it's certainly in-line with their goal to support game development.
Still, is there value in absence of DRM? Absolutely. Will Linux and Mac users feel mistreated and maybe even betrayed? There's definitely that possibility. Those details and their significance should not be lost or ignored. That the Humble Bundle set aside a portion of its core values is disappointing in the least, but that shouldn't come at the expense of what the Humble Bundle is doing here. A bundle with 7 outstanding titles, hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity, the gratitude of thousands of developers thinking about their future, and every major publisher thinking about what they can do to work with Humble Bundle in the future -- these are things worth compromising for. Today there may be controversy, but by the end of the Humble THQ Bundle the greater gaming community should be in agreement that this may very well be a step towards something bigger and better.
Drawing a line in the sand and saying you're either with us or against us is both unfair and in poor taste. Ben Kuchera ultimately purchased the bundle, but went on to state that the money, "won’t likely make a difference for THQ one way or the other. It’s a wasted opportunity." I hope Ben reconsiders. I hope THQ's stock continues to climb (+.41 today), and I hope if everything works out they remember the Humble Bundle further down the line. Mostly, though, I hope everyone chips in for the Humble THQ Bundle -- even, hell, especially the Linux, Mac and anti-DRM crowd -- so next time we can say, "Remember the Humble THQ Bundle? That was amazing, let's do better."