Independent game development has produced some real gems over the years. Regardless of what is typically a very limited budget when compared to the big-money companies in the industry, indie developers tend to be innovators, relying on original mechanics and pure gameplay to provide a memorable experience. After all, you can't hide behind flashy presentation when you can't afford it to begin with.
But that same budget limit often means that these gems might stay buried if not for word of mouth. Downloadable console services like Xbox Live Indie Games and the PlayStation Network have provided unusually visible platforms for these titles, but for the games that are lucky enough to be featured, much of the money made through these services doesn't make its way back to the less-than-privileged developers. Many indie developers identify Steam for the PC and Mac as their preferred platform due to its visibility and generous payout, but there's still quite a compromise there.
Without the budget to advertise and spread the word, indie developers often need to rely a bit too much on luck for their game to fall in hands that are also accompanied by a voice loud enough to announce their game's excellence to the community. There could be many more games like Braid, World of Goo, and Frozen Synapse out there, but what can be done to give them the visible platform they deserve?
Enter Jeff Rosen of Wolfire Games. Inspired by gaming bundles often featured on the Steam distribution platform, along with the success of a "pay what you want" experiment with World of Goo, Rosen came up with the Humble Indie Bundle. And he's being repeatedly proven to be a pretty smart guy.
The Humble Indie Bundle is a collection of independently developed games offered in a single package. But there some special details on the way the package is offered:
Your money goes where you say it goes. The Humble Indie Bundle is partnered with the Child's Play charity, which organizes worldwide toy drives to children's hospitals, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which is an international non-profit digital rights advocacy and legal organization. When you buy a Humble Indie Bundle, you specify how much money goes to Child's Play, how much goes to EFF, and how much goes to the game developers themselves. Since there's no middle-man, the money goes straight to your specified destination without dropping off percentages to any hidden benefactors.
You pay whatever you want to pay. No catch. If you just want to play the games and pay as little as possible, give $1. You'll still get access to the entire package. On the other hand, if you're feeling particularly generous, make a hefty donation and give a large portion to charity.
The games are DRM-free. Many consumers are turned off by Digital Rights Management (DRM). It's often restrictive, requiring players to be connected to the Internet to play a game that doesn't even involve online play, or perhaps limiting the amount of times you're able to download a game that you supposedly own. The games offered in the Humble Indie Bundle packages are completely DRM-free. You download the games and you are free to do whatever you like with them. They're yours.
As an additional perk, the majority of the offered games are also redeemable on Steam, as that is the preferred platform of many gamers for PC games due to its organizational qualities and ease of re-download should you ever lose your local copy. In addition, the sometimes-large Humble Bundle downloads are offered through BitTorrent streams for convenience.
There have been four bundles offered in the past, and they have sold well. The first bundle, which ran from May 4th-10th, 2010, included the games World of Goo, Aquaria, Gish, Penumbra: Overture, Lugaru HD, and Samorost 2, raising over $1.27 million over the six days that it was available. The next three bundles featured games including the likes of Braid, Trine, and Shadowgrounds, and raised almost $5 million between them.
Sound interesting? I'll bet it does. Now's a great time to look into it yourself, because there's a Humble Indie Bundle being offered right now. Here's what the website has to say about the current Humble Frozen Synapse Bundle:
Frozen Synapse normally costs $25, but we're letting you set the price! The Frozen Synapse soundtrack is also included with your purchase ($6) and we recently added two more games: TRAUMA ($7) and SpaceChem ($15). Plus, if you pay more than the average price, we'll throw in the entire Humble Frozenbyte Bundle — a $45 value!
Just so you know, the "average price" mentioned in that quote is $4.78 at the time that this article is being written. So, if you pay $5, you'd end up with products that would normally cost $98 all together. How much better of a deal are you looking for?
Don't worry about what kind of computer you have. In general, all games offered in the Humble Bundles are playable on Windows PCs, Mac OS X computers, and Linux systems. Any exceptions are noted on the site, but they are few and far between. Plus, the current bundle includes this year's under-the-radar gem Frozen Synapse, a game that not only earned itself a 5/5 rating from The Escapist, but is also completely playable on a low-end computer such as a netbook. No "gaming rig" needed.
The Humble Indie Bundles indeed offer a fantastically visible platform for some very under-appreciated games, and they raise a lot of money for charity as well as independent developers that are putting their blood, sweat, and tears into these games for generally very little return. Some buyers certainly give very generously, as the top 10 contributors listed on the homepage include Minecraft developer Markus Persson, who bought the Humble Frozen Synapse Bundle for $2,000.
But what about you? Think you might have $5 to split between charities and developers? Maybe $1? For this ludicrously low price, you're going to get quality games that you might not have been exposed to in any other fashion, and you're encouraging the indie developers to keep doing what they do. And they are who provide some of the most progressive innovations in the industry.
The current Humble Frozen Synapse Bundle is being offered until this Wednesday, October 12th. If you're interested, head to HumbleBundle.com now, give your donation, and get great games. Even if you're not planning on playing any of them, why not take a moment to donate a dollar or two to charity or the developers? Who knows, maybe you'll find one of your new favorite games in a little extension of generosity.