The first Humble Indie Bundle was put on sale May 4th, 2010. It included notable indie titles like World of Goo, Gish, and Penumbra: Overture. For the entire bundle, users were asked to give whatever they wanted with part of the money going to the charities.
It was a massive success, taking in over one million dollars with around 31% going to charity and each developer involved getting an average of $166,000 worth of sales. Today the Humble Bundle has grown into a phenomenon, selling everything from AAA games like Saints Row, to books to music.
It’s amazing when you think about how stingy gamers can be. I mean, I know people who wait for Steam sales to buy $10 games and for MMOs to go free-to-play before trying them. What is it about the Humble Bundle that drives people to collectively pay thousands of dollars for games that were released years ago? When you boil it down, Humble Bundle has three keys to success.
Developers big and small win
I’ve been talking about the cut of the profits that go to charities and Humble Bundle itself, but developers get their own share too. It isn’t just money, however, as the Humble Bundles help give indie developers the kind of exposure they just can’t get on Steam.
By keeping the bundles down to around five to six games, it guarantees that those games will get the spotlight, sometimes alongside far more established titles. Even bigger developers can benefit from the process, allowing their older titles to be used to help raise money for worthwhile charities.
Gamers love giving to charity
Despite everything you’ll hear from the 24-hour news, gamers are not introverted loners (well, most of them aren’t). In fact, gamers have shown repeatedly how willing they are to give back. Just look at the donations for Child’s Play or Extra Life to see just how much.
Charity is at the very core of the Humble Bundle. For a lot of the biggest spenders, the games are secondary. The bundles are merely an outlet to give as much as they can for causes they believe in. While a large chunk of sales goes to those charities, the Humble Bundle takes a share as the intermediary.
While their share goes right back into supporting the website (and you can now choose which percentage of your donation goes where), it’s still in their best interest to get as many sales as they can. So how do they get people to actually pay a decent amount for their bundles?
You pay more, you get more, they pay more
Have you ever watched a charity drive on TV and the host says something like “if you give twenty dollars you’ll get a tote bag absolutely free!” It’s a common tactic meant to get you to donate just a bit more than you would otherwise because, hey, five more bucks and you get a tote bag! Humble Bundle does the same thing, but their method is one of the shrewdest I’ve ever seen.
The way it works is that for any amount over a penny, you get access to a batch of games. If you pay over a dollar, though, you get the Steam key for those games. The best part are the extra games you could get if you just paid higher than the average. A few more bucks and you can get a couple extra games absolutely free with soundtracks! Who could pass up that kind of deal?
The best part, though, are the extra games you could get if you just paid higher than the average.
The system is so shrewd because it adds peer pressure to your donations. It’s Humble Bundle leaning in and saying “you can give whatever you want, but the Internet is giving this much. You don’t want to look cheap now, do you?” What happens when you do pay higher than the average and get those extra games? You help raise the average so that the next guy in line has to pay a bit more to get those locked games.
It’s a system for success that benefits everyone. You get a few extra games, charities get a few more donation dollars, and Humble Bundle takes in more money to continue fueling itself.
What does the future hold?
Ever since its first sale in 2010, the Humble Bundle has grown from a once-in-a-while treat to a thriving website that does weekly game bundles, book bundles, and even their own storefront where 75% of the sale goes to the developer. They don’t seem to be happy with just that, having experimented with bundles for everything from music to stand up comedy audio tracks. For now, though, they’re experimenting with smaller, daily bundles as well as polishing their new storefront.
Did I leave out a reason for Humble Bundle’s success? Will Humble Bundle’s new store grow to rival Steam? Please let us know what you think down in the comments or give me a piece of your mind on Twitter at @lanceicarus.