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'Humble Indie Bundle' Tops $1 Million, Goes Open-Source
'Humble Indie Bundle' Tops $1 Million, Goes Open-Source
May 12, 2010 | By Leigh Alexander

May 12, 2010 | By Leigh Alexander
More: Console/PC, Indie

The pay-what-you-want "Humble Indie Bundle" continues to see massive success, and as it tops $1 million in contributions, the developers of some of the games included have pledged to go open-source with their game code.

The "Humble Indie Bundle" initiative, spearheaded by Wolfire Games, allows consumers to pay what they want for a six-game indie bundle, with the option of giving all proceeds to charity. Of the $1,139,087 raised to date, contributors have allocated 30.93 percent, or $352,334, to the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Child's Play Charity.

"Now it's our turn to give back," says Wolfire on the official site, pledging Seumas McNally Grand Prize winner Aquaria from Bit Blot, Cryptic Sea's 2005 IGF grand prize winner Gish, Wolfire's own Lugaru HD and Frictional Games' Penumbra: Overture aim to go open source as of May 11.

Lugaru is already available open-source: "The code is still a little rough (no Visual Studio project yet, for instance) but hopefully with the help of the community we can rapidly make it more accessible to everyone," says Wolfire.

The bundle also contains 2D Boy's multiple IGF category award winner World of Goo and Amanita Design's Samarost 2.

Buyers can choose any amount of money to pay for the pack. They can then decide how to allocate their contribution, among either or both of the two charities and among the developers of the games. Combined, the DRM-free games are valued at around $80 if purchased separately.

Contributions ramped up rapidly over the past week and a half, growing from about $40,000 on May 4 to around $700,000 at the beginning of this week. The total number of contributions has now reached 124,447 buyers.

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J Benjamin Hollman
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We need more thinking like this. It's just so damning to the traditional publishing system, that these people made their games with a budget somewhere in the neighborhood of "fuck-all" and managed to walk away with over $100,000 each in a single week just by doing a little good in the world. No market demographics, no focus group testing or pandering to the lowest common denominator. Just lateral thinking, the long-forgotten art that's been around since dinosaurs walked the earth. Having a big heart helps, too.

This isn't to say that every indie game from now on should come packaged in a charityware bundle (which is probably going to happen for the next couple years until people get sick of it). It means that there are infinite possibilities for successful business models, especially for indie studios that aren't tied down by company policy and the bottom line, so long as you tell your brain to get up off of its medulla and come up with a model that works specifically for your game.

The next couple years are going to be pretty exciting, methinks.

E Zachary Knight
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Its a shame that major publishers and developers are not going to give this experiment the time of day.

If you look at the data, you will see that each developer got $151,031 for the week. There were a total of 125,923 purchases made. This means that each developer received $1.20 per purchase. A major publisher will think that is worthless.

But this will work in the favor of smaller developers and indies and we will see a variety of business models spring up as developers try to attract the same kind of attention, which is what these sales are about in the end. Getting exposure for the indie developer.

Adam Bishop
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I think you guys hit the nail on the head. What this does not prove is that "pay what you want" is a workable business model. What it *does* prove is that some creative marketing and a bit of respect for your audience can net you a lot of money that you wouldn't have otherwise made. It's worth noting that none of these games are new. Their developers each just got over $100 000 for games that have seen little if any work recently. Great way to help your games have that elusive long tail.

I believe that kind of lateral thinking can work for larger companies as well. Look at how well Valve has done with their non-traditional marketing. How much money are they going to make from people visiting their store to download Portal for free over the next couple weeks? My guess would be quite a bit.

Michael Smith
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Bundle models work out better than the $1.20 per game suggests, simply because it creates incentive to purchase games they might not have. It also exposes more players to their small games, creating more dedicated fans who will look for future releases and promote them to their friends. A key thing to remember, as Adam pointed out, is that this is post release window model. Once you've covered costs and are making profits, this is a great way to (if I can repeat myself) expand your player base, create positive association with your company in the gaming community, and make some money to fund your next game. They can indirectly help their favorite charities in this particular model, too.

I particularly like the average contribution indicator. This motivates contributors to pay over that amount to feel good about themselves. Thus, we see the indicator increasing over time.