I remember the first time I saw one of the Humble Indie Bundles: four brilliant indie games (Braid, Osmos, Machinarium and Cortex Command) available for whatever price I desired. I probably paid around five cents, but since then I have avidly followed each new bundle, often paying well above the recommended price. The Humble Indie Bundle was the first of its kind, creating a strong emotional connection between buyer and seller that had yet to be leveraged.
Pay What You Want (PWYW) pricing systems, as used for the Humble Indie Bundle, have been used by businesses for some time. Some restaurants host “pay what your heart feels” nights, relying on customers to spend a reasonable amount for their food. Radiohead boosted aware- ness of the technique with their album In Rainbows, available as a digital download from their website in 2007. In Rainbows was a huge success, reportedly selling $1.2 million downloads on the first day. PWYW systems allow businesses close emotional contact with their audience, creating a bond that significantly strengthens the buyer/seller relationship.
Wolfire Games organised and managed the original Humble Bundle, raising over $1 million in revenue. After this incredible success, Wolfire set up Humble Bundle Inc.. The original bundle was partly inspired by the video game World of Goo, developed by 2D Boy, which celebrated its first anniversary by offer- ing a PWYW download.
The Humble Bundles goes further than this. Each payment can be split three-ways between the developer, Humble Bundle Inc., and one or more charities such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Red Cross. Each game is also strictly digital rights management (DRM) free, meaning the games are not tethered to anti-piracy software.
The Humble Bundle has stripped away much of the rationale behind piracy such as cost, ethical rea- sons and lack of direct flow of money to the creators. And yet people still pay the bare minimum (as I did several years ago). Piracy is made easier by the fact that these games are DRM free, making it impossible to tell the difference between someone who has pirated the games or paid for them legitimately. Speaking on this
subject, Jefferey Rosen, co-founder of Wolfire Games, has said: “When considering any kind of DRM, we have to ask ourselves ‘how many legitimate users is it OK to inconvenience in order to reduce piracy?’ The answer should be none.”
Humble Bundle Inc. have found this system to be so successful that they are now venturing into other mediums. In 2012 they released the Humble Music Bundle, with music by They Might Be Giants and Jona- thon Coulton, and the Humble eBook Bundle. This year they released the Humble Comedy Bundle, with audio and video from Louis C.K, Maria Bramford and Tig Nataro’s legendary ‘Cancer Set’.
The Internet has allowed much greater freedom for distributing me- dia, giving video game developers, authors, comedians and musicians the ability to directly release content to their audiences. The Humble Bundle is just one of the brilliant examples of this new economic freedom, releas- ing material in creative and ethical ways, all while bringing out the best from consumers.