We all know the old adage, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” And while that’s true for the most part, sometimes what appears to be a great deal is simply that: a great deal.
Awhile back, I was seldom excited by independent games. Pretentiousness and fourth-grade development skills rarely caused me to email friends and family imploring them to shell out some dough for a great deal. However, when the Humble Indie Bundle appeared, it was something else entirely. Not only did it offer six spectacular indie titles, but it also appealed to gamers’ sense of community.
We gamers could all do with a few more Humble Indie Bundles.
Nowadays, especially in PC gaming, far too much emphasis is placed on the ability to download titles for free. While I’m no saint when it comes to buying every single piece of music I listen to, people stealing games stirs a demon inside me like no other. Hypocrisy? Yes. But I feel that there is a point to be made in my double standards.
Videogame developers – indie devs especially – are a unique breed of gamers that usually do what they do for a pittance. You won’t see the makers of Soul or Bob Came In Pieces out purchasing compensatory sports cars with the sort of money they make from their games. Instead, they rely upon you, the gamer, to follow their exploits and purchase their (let’s face it) rather generously priced offerings.
The Humble Indie Bundle was a chance for every type of gamer, be they casual or hardcore, to enjoy a selection of the finest offerings from the indie world. In conjunction with Child’s Play Charity and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Bundle collected over $1million for indie devs and charity.
Not bad, right? Well, it’s not bad until you consider how many people downloaded the Bundle, and how many people pirated it. In an act of faith not far removed from the long forgotten honesty box next to a fresh fruit stand, or Radiohead’s In Rainbows release, Wolfire allowed users to download the collection of games for however much they desired ($0.01 and upwards).
One cent. One measly cent for six phenomenal games. And while the majority paid at least $10 for the collection, it gets royally messed up when you consider that 25% of the people that currently possess the Humble Indie Bumble pirated it. Excuse my French, but it’s pretty fucking despicable to steal a game at the best of times, let alone when it’s an honest attempt to help prop up the independent games industry and donate to charity.
But despite the dim-witted chronic masturbaters that make up 25% of the Internet, constantly on the prowl for their next piece of free software and/or tranny porn, the Humble Indie Bundle proved that the indie games industry is alive and well. Already, there have been clones of the Bundle, some authorized, others not, but all showing that the power of the independent developer has not been smothered by the long dick of Activision mega corporations.
I’m happy to see that already there are several games jumping on the pay-what-you-want bandwagon. Assuming that all gamers are honest (which they are not, but it serves my point for now), having World of Goo or Sleep Is Death available for a personal payment scale allows every gamer to enjoy these exceptional titles. As AAA prices continue to rise (I almost crapped myself when I saw EB Australia was selling Red Dead Redemption for $119.95 last week), a market has opened up that the indie scene is desperate to fill.
The iPhone has done wonders for casual and indie games of late, with Soul a personal favourite of mine. Hopefully, that trend will continue, not just in the mobile phone department, but for PC and console games as well. Similarly, XBLA and PSN are abuzz every week with the latest releases, many of which have been developed by small or unknown companies from every corner of the world. This is a wonderful thing for gaming, and one that I hope to see continue through many more Humble Indie Bundle-esque promotions.
It’s easy to sit on my high horse and castigate pirates for their reckless disregard for their fellow gamers. But it’s also easy for hardcore gamers to mock those who don’t have the funds or time (or both) to purchase the latest AAA releases. Indie development isn’t a new market, but it is a burgeoning one, and one that gamers need to embrace if we want to see innovation and creativity continue to reach great heights in videogames.
I for one hope that the almighty buck doesn’t end up condemning the next brilliant indie title to Miniclip.