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Humble Indie Bundle

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The Humble Indie Bundle or Humble Bundle is a collection of independently developed video games that was originally offered on sale from May 4 through May 11, 2010. The collection, initially consisting of five games—World of Goo (2D Boy), Aquaria (Bit Blot), Gish (Edmund McMillen), Lugaru (Wolfire Games), and Penumbra: Overture (Frictional Games)—and later joined by a sixth game, Samorost 2 (Amanita Design), was offered in a "pay-what-you-want" manner, allowing buyers to decide how much they were willing to pay, as little as $0.01, for the package. Purchasers were also able to set how they wanted their money to be distributed between the developers and two charities, Child's Play and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The games were available for Microsoft Windows, MacOS X, and Linux-based systems, and were digitally distributed without digital rights management (DRM) controls.[1] The sale was able to raise over US$1 million within the week's offering, with nearly US$325k being donated to the charities; as a result of hitting the marker, the source code for four of the games was made available under the GNU General Public License.

Concept and history

The idea for the Bundle was from Jeff Rosen of Wolfire Games.[2] Rosen describes the inspiration coming to him through similar sales of bundle packages on the Steam platform and from a recent teaming with Unknown Worlds Entertainment to offer a bundle based on their Natural Selection 2 game.[2] Influence also came from a previous "pay-what-you-want" sale for World of Goo upon the title's first anniversary;[2][3] over 57,000 copies of the game were purchased during this sale, generating over US$117,000 after considering PayPal handling fees.[4][5] Rosen by this point was well connected with other independent developers, for example his brother David is listed as being a game tester for the Penumbra series, and Penumbra's composer Mikko Tarmia is now contributing to Wolfire Games' upcoming game project Overgrowth. The porter of Lugaru to Linux was Ryan C. Gordon, who was also responsible for porting Aquaria to Linux. With his close ties to these independent developers, as well as Ron Carmel of 2D Boy, Rosen was able to assemble the package, taking advantage of merchant sales systems offered by PayPal, Amazon Payments, and Google Checkout to minimize the cost of transactions and distribution.[2]

Rosen also sought to include charities in the bundle, allowing the purchaser to choose how to distribute the funds between the developers and charities. Rosen believed Child's Play was a worthwhile cause that brought video games to hospitalized children and helped to fight the stigma of video games, while he selected the Electronic Frontier Foundation to support their anti-DRM stance.[2] The means of "pay-as-you-go" would allow purchasers to simply give the money to the charities, but Rosen felt this was not an issue and would "consider that a success" of the sale.[2]

Midway through the sale period, Wolfire Games was approached by Amanita Design studios, who wanted to help contribute to the cause in their own way, by donating their game Samorost 2 to the bundle, allowing those that already had purchased the bundle to further download that title.[6] Furthermore, three studios offered a further incentive for purchasers during the sale, in that if more than US$1 million was raised by the effort, the source code for Gish, Penumbra and Lugaru would then be offered.[6]


The promotion was met with strong success, achieving more than US$1 million in sales within the week from approximately 116,000 donations.[7][8] After the extension, the total amount of money raised by the effort was in excess of $1,270,000.[9] Based on the distribution set by users, the two charities received about 31% of the total money raised, while each of the five developers saw an average of US$166,000 in sales.[8][9] About half of the sales were to Microsoft Windows platforms, while the MacOS X and Linux sales roughly equally split the rest. By tracking pricing, Wolfire Games found that Linux users were the most generous, paying about US$14 per bundle, followed by MacOS X users (US$10) and Windows users (US$7–8).[7][10] Rosen noted the presence of donations as large as $3333 and $1337 near the final hours of the sale, and believes social link-sharing sites like Reddit helped them to reach the $1 million milestone.[11] As a result of reaching the US$1 million goal, the source code for the game engines for Gish, Penumbra, Lugaru, and, due to the overwhelming success, Aquaria, will be made available through the GNU General Public License; art, music, and other creative assets for these games would not be included.[8] Wolfire also extended the offer on the sale for an additional four days.[8]

Despite the ability to get the games at nearly zero cost, Wolfire Games estimate that 25% of the traceable downloads have come from software piracy by links provided in some forums that bypass the payment screen to access the games; Wolfire further surmises additional piracy occurred through BitTorrent-type peer-to-peer sharing services.[12] Rosen noted they purposely removed much of the DRM associated with games to appeal to those that would otherwise engage in software piracy, through both having the games ship without DRM and by having only limited copy protection on their website.[12] Rosen also stated that for about ten users that emailed Wolfire about being unable to pay for the software, he personally donated on their behalf.[12] Rosen comments that there may be legitimate reasons for those that appear to be pirating the game, including the inability to use the payment methods provided or that they had a made a single large donation for multiple copies.[12] However, he also considered that there are players that would simply forward the download links to "take pleasure in spreading the pirated links to their friends or anonymous buddies for fun".[12] While aware of the presumed software piracy, Rosen says that Wolfire will take no steps to limit it, believing that "making the download experience worse for generous contributors in the name of punishing pirates doesn't really fit with the spirit of the bundle".[13] Rosen noted that by offering the source code of the games as an incentive, they would hope that "the community will help build them up with the same vigor that crackers tear DRM down".[11] David Wong of Cracked, in considering several reasons for the negative stereotypes for video game players, used the Humble Indie Bundle as an example of demonstrating the "sense of entitlement" that some video game players have, pointing to the high rate of piracy and use of bandwidth as alternatives to spending "even one penny".[14]

The promotion was considered to be very successful. Rosen noted that they considered the million-dollar goal as a best-case scenario, but once the sale actually started, "it was immediately clear that we were on to something".[11] Brandon Boyer of Boing Boing believed that it provided a model that "seems it could and should be repeated".[8] The move to offer games in a price and manner that consumers were willing to buy was contrasted to larger software publishers that place artificial limitations on their content; Mike Masnick of Techdirt believed the Humble Bundle promotion worked as it "focus[ed] on giving people real reasons to buy, rather than just feeling entitled to define the terms under which they buy and looking for ways to limit those who want to interact with you in a different manner".[15] The source for the promotion's website has been requested of Wolfire by several other groups, according to Rosen; Rosen continues that he believes that many similar charitable sales can be seen in the future from the Humble Bundle's success.[11]


  1. Mastrapa, Gus (2010-05-04). Name Your Own Price for World of Goo, Other Indie Games. Wired. Retrieved on 2010-05-10.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Thompson, Michael (2010-05-04). Humble Bundle: greatest sale of indie games ever?. Ars Technica. Retrieved on 2010-05-10.
  3. Thompson, Michael (2009-10-20). 2D Boy continuing "pay what you want" sale for World of Goo. Ars Technica. Retrieved on 2010-05-10.
  4. Breckon, Nick (2009-10-21). Results of 2D Boy's 'Pay What You Want' World of Goo Sales Experiment Released. Shacknews. Retrieved on 2010-05-10.
  5. Newman, Jared (2010-05-06). Pay What You Like, Say Indie Game Makers. PC World. Retrieved on 2010-05-10.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Mastrapa, Gus (2010-05-10). More Games, Source Code Join ‘Humble Indie Bundle’. Wired. Retrieved on 2010-05-10.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Graft, Kris (2010-05-10). 'Humble Indie Bundle' Charity Drive Approaches $700,000. Gamasutra. Retrieved on 2010-05-10.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 Boyer, Brandon (2010-05-11). Humble Indie Bundle hits $1m, goes open-source, gets 4 day extension. Boing Boing. Retrieved on 2010-05-11.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Masnick, Mike (2010-05-19). Some Final Stats On The Humble Indie Bundle. Techdirt. Retrieved on 2010-05-24.
  10. Richmond, Shane (2010-05-07). Are Linux users more generous than Windows users?. The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved on 2010-05-10.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Kuchera, Ben (2010-05-12). With >$1 million raised, Humble Bundle games go open source. Ars Technica. Retrieved on 2010-05-12.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 Kuchera, Ben (2010-05-10). Humble Bundle gives pirates what they want, gets ripped off. Ars Technica. Retrieved on 2010-05-10.
  13. Chalk, Andy (2010-05-10). Who Would Pirate the One-Cent Humble Indie Bundle?. The Escapist. Retrieved on 2010-05-10.
  14. Wong, David (2010-05-24). 5 Reasons It's Still Not Cool to Admit You're a Gamer. Cracked. Retrieved on 2010-05-24.
  15. Masnick, Mike (2010-05-11). Humble Indie Bundle Hits One Million In Sales... Goes Open Source. Techdirt. Retrieved on 2010-05-11.

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