The THQ Bundle: Humble or Fumble?
With the recent release of the Humble THQ Bundle, some wildly popular games from troubled publisher THQ, such as Metro 2033 and Saints Row The Third for the price of whatever you feel like paying. This is the internet, which means there are of course very strong and wildly different opinions as to whether this represents a good deal or a raw deal for gaming.
Pixels or Death’s very own Mike Barrett and Patrick Lindsey each share their very different thoughts on the matter, in a segment we like to call…actually it doesn’t really have a name, but you should totally check out what they have to say anyway.
Totally Humble: Mike’s Thoughts
I guess I fall into the “dude, chill” end of this debate. Not because I think the Humble Bundle has done a particularly amazing amount of good that justifies the ickiness of betraying their indie roots for a major developer payout, or because I think THQ deserves the extra help, but because I’ve never had any illusions about why I’m there as a consumer — for a good deal.
I buy humble bundles because I want cheap games. That’s really it. (I think the second reason would be the social pressure to buy humble bundles and participate in the “event,” but that’s another article.)
I know lots of people feel the same way, especially when you hear accounts of so many people saying things like “I got this bundle just for X game.”
The charity and ability to help particular developers have always been a delightful bonus that makes me clap my hands rapidly in excitement like the little girl I am, but never has that been the impetus for my decision as a consumer. So in effect, yeah, bring on the major developer bundles! I want my games catalog to grow efficiently.
But even looking outside my own selfish desires, there’s a lot of reasons why this intersection of indie and triple A development should be encouraged.
Humble is also an indie triumph, not just an easily manageable platform where games can get exposure but also the offshoot of an indie team itself, Wolfire Games. It’s a symbiotic relationship benefitting everyone involved, and one that has worked out well enough for the Humble team to expand into a bigger arena. This doesn’t mean they’re giving up on indie games or developers.
The way I see it, this could be an especially humanizing thing for big developers to do in the future. How much would these games cost you if you purchased them all individually through steam or at a physical store? Certainly a lot more than five bucks. Not many people are going to buy these game anymore anyway, so why not have THQ “be the good guy” and give to people that still want them for pretty damn cheap? They wouldn’t make peanuts on them anymore anyway.
Yes, this is more likely a cash grab from an imperiled company than it is some benevolent act from our developer overlords, but still. It’s a rather organic move in an industry that charges ten dollars for alternate costumes or to unlock on disc content.
I’d like to see more big shots give power to their fans and give away their stuff once they’ve had their moment in the review column rather than holding tightly to each game like a child who refuses to share their old toys with a younger sibling.
As for the DRM, that’s never been a huge issue for me, so I can’t really comment. It would be fantastic to see it removed, but I’ll wait until the Humble EA Bundle (lol) or whatever comes next to pass judgment on that.
Major Fumble: Patrick’s Thoughts
The Humble Bundle is an establishment that’s made a name for itself by ostensibly serving as an outreach program for indie developers. By hand selecting some of the best new indie games and allowing us, the players, to decide exactly what they are worth to us, they’ve been hugely successful in signal boosting some fantastic games by some fantastic devs we otherwise wouldn’t have heard of. What’s more, the money from the Bundles goes directly to the developers, bypassing the publisher altogether. It’s an incredibly pure relationship whereby the creator actually gets paid what their work is “worth,” without mitigation from any nefarious publisher.
I don’t begrudge Humble for trying to make money. What I do begrudge them is trying to make money by totally shunning the ideals that they founded themselves on. As a publisher, THQ represent the exact nefarious entity that previous Humble Bundles were allowing developers to circumvent. What’s worse, many of THQ’s studios have been recently axed; many of the developers who actually made those games in that bundle have lost their jobs already, and won’t receive ANY of the money raised by this bundle. The fact that one of the top contributors is Jason “president of THQ himself” Rubin is pretty damning.
Contributing to the Humble THQ Bundle isn’t raising awareness for great new indie games and it certainly isn’t supporting indie devs. Simply put, Humble isn’t playing to the spirit of the game with this one.
Perhaps even more sinister, there seems to be a pattern in games whereby smaller independent entities find a way to not only survive, but proliferate, using non-conventional channels like Kickstarter and yes, Humble Bundles, in order to bypass the megalomaniacally corporate Eye of Sauron of the publishing companies. And then, as soon as these channels have been demonstrated to be effective, the Eye of Sauron turns its gaze towards them and snatches them up for itself.
Look at Kickstarter. The most successful projects haven’t been any indie Cinderella stories; the highest grossing projects are those by Schaeffer, Braben, Obsidian, Molyneux: exactly the same people who make all the money in AAA development. These major studios (and don’t fool yourself by thinking they’re anything other than that) who could easily fund, produce, and distribute their projects on their own, have taken the one thing that’s given indies a leg-up chance for survival and completely appropriated it. My fear is that the same thing will happen to Humble.
THQ is obviously in some trouble. But my greatest fear is that this will set a precedent. What’s stopping Humble from teaming up with Activision, Bethesda, or god forbid EA and releasing a “Humble First Person Shooter Bundle?” Look at Kickstarter. The precedent is there. It could happen. The Humble Bundle has been a pipeline to boost the signal of some really exceptional indie developers, but the THQ Bundle is setting the stage for the same publishing powerhouses Humble has been helping people avoid to come in and clog the channel with more of the same noise.