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Humble Bundle: Play Games, Be a Real-Life Hero

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At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Humble Bundle

If there's one thing I've learned in the years I've been writing about software, it's that there is a lot of it around. Competition is fierce and applications must find a way to be different. This is all the more true in the world of computer games, where several big studios dominate the scene. But the Humble Bundle is helping the little guys gain some serious exposure, while helping two good causes and making the whole process into a game in itself.

Humble Bundle screenshot
The Humble Bundle is presented a single well-crafted Web page, letting you see exactly how the bundle is doing, set your own price and get your own copy.
The Humble Bundle is presented as a single, slick webpage. The offering is periodic: any given bundle is offered for about a week or two before it goes away, never to return. Each bundle features a selection of independently developed computer games, often cross-platform ones. Some bundles include prerelease versions. For example, the recent Humble Voxatron Debut bundle revolved around a game called Voxatron; Voxatron was not out just yet, and the bundle granted access to prerelease alpha version of the game. Once the full game is released, anyone buying the bundle would get a complete copy of the final version. As of this writing, the available lineup of Humble Introversion Bundle includes Introversion Software titles (and source code for) Darwinia, DEFCON, Multiwinia: Survival of the Flattest, and Uplink.

The Humble Bundle lets you set your own price, as well as how to distribute your payment. You can select one of four preconfigured prices between $100 and $15, or opt to enter a custom amount, which can be anything: The top donation for the current bundle is $1250, while the average price is currently $4.02.

Once you've decided how much you wish to pay, you can decide how your payment is to be distributed. The Humble Bundle page features a slider for each game featured in the current bundle, as well as a slider for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Child's Play, and the Humble Bundle organizers. Move the sliders around to determine what proportion of your donation goes towards each cause. As you move a single slider, all other sliders adjust accordingly to show how much money is left for every other cause in the bundle.

Transparency is key when giving, and the Humble Bundle delivers lots of it. Unlike a traditional business, the Humble Bundle page contains lots of stats and counters showing how things are going at any given moment. On the top of the page is a large counter showing how many purchases of the current bundle were made, as well as a timer ticking down to the end of the bundle. Near the middle of the page appears a detailed list of financial statistics, including the gross revenue of the current bundle, the average purchase, and the average per-platform (currently, the average Mac user pays $5.68 per bundle, while Windows users give $3.39 on average. Linux users tend to be most generous, at an average of $8.36). There is also a top-ten list of contributors, showing those individuals and organizations who gave the most.

Since the process is so transparent, it can be made into a game in itself: Donate more than the average amount, and get something extra. If you donate more than the (constantly rising) average, you get extra games (in this bundle it's Aquaria, Crayon Physics Deluxe, and Dungeons of Dredmor).

The Humble Bundle is a superb implementation of the bundle concept, and so far has been very successful, raising over $4 million in 2011 alone. It's a perfect example of "everybody wins"--the developers, the charities, and of course, gamers all over the world.

Note: This link takes you to the vendor's site, where you can download the latest version of the software.

--Erez Zukerman

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At a Glance
  • The Humble Bundle offers time-limited game bundles for which you set your own price and donate a part of the proceeds to charity.


    • Set your own price
    • A beautiful way to give
    • Transparent process


    • "Bundles" sometimes start out as single games
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