Dec. 15, 2010 at 7:39 PM ET
Talk about your great gaming deals. A group of developers have teamed up to offer some of the best computer games out there for the low-low price of whatever you want to pay.
You could pay as little as one cent for this package of five games. But you should pay more. Much more.
The Humble Indie Bundle 2, as it's known, is a collection of five of the best independently produced games made in the last couple of years ('independently produced' means they were each made by one or maybe a handful of people working on a shoestring budget, no big game company to back them).
Those are some truly superb games all on their own. But meanwhile, whatever amount you choose to pay, you can also decide whether that money goes to the folks who made the games, to two great charities and/or to the folks who helped put this bundle together in the first place.
In fact, you get to decide exactly how your money is divvied up.
But wait ... why are these developers letting customers decide how much they want to pay for these games, which would collectively cost a total of $85? Won't people just pay a penny and rip them off?
Not so much, it turns out.
This is the second Humble Indie Bundle the guys at Wolfire Games have put together — the first one was offered in May and the results were surprising.
"The first and most important thing we found is that people on a whole are surprisingly generous," said Jeffrey Rosen, one of the co-founders of Wolfire and the newly minted Humble Indie Bundle Inc. "People could just pay a penny. But on an average they paid $9.18. It's pretty remarkable."
All in all, the first bundle (which included "World of Goo," "Aquaria," "Gish," "Lugaru" and "Penumbra: Overture" plus "Samorost 2") was offered for 10 days and brought in $1.27 million. Of that, buyers decided to donate a whopping $392,000 to two charities — the Electronic Frontier Foundation (dedicated to protecting free speech and consumer rights) and Child's Play (which helps sick children).
This newest Humble Indie Bundle is scheduled to be available for one week (though it might be extended by a couple of days). And in the first 24 hours it's been available, 74,640 people have already paid more than half a million dollars for the package.
So far, on average, people are paying $7.25 per bundle. But a few generous donors have dropped a truly surprising amount of cash. Renowned indie game developer Notch (the man behind mega indie hit "Minecraft") paid $2,000. Meanwhile, Robert Bowling, creative strategist for Call of Duty studio Infinity Ward, paid $500 for the package.
Perhaps even more interesting is how this pay-what-you-want model has affected piracy rates. All of the games in the bundle come without any digital rights management (DRM), which means those who do download the games can copy and distribute them as they please.
Rosen says that indie developers, who typically create games without DRM and sell them for around $20, often find that about 90 percent of their game downloads are from people who didn't pay for them. But in the case of the Humble Indie Bundle, he estimates only a 20 percent pirate rate. (Though yeah, what kind of person pirates games that only cost a penny and donate their proceeds to charity anyway?)
Beyond that, some other pretty interesting statistics have emerged from this unique experiment in giving and gaming.
The Humble Bundle creators found that Gmail users were about twice as generous on average as Hotmail users in terms of what they paid for the first bundle, and they found that people paid considerably more for bundles they bought for themselves than they did for bundles they designated as gifts. (Yes, the Humble Indie Bundle does make a great gift for the holidays.)
Meanwhile, just as with the first Humble Indie Bundle, this time around Linux users are paying more than twice as much as Windows users. With Windows users currently paying $6.01 per download, Mac users paying $8.19 and Linux users paying $13.66 on average.
Rosen says that one of the reasons Linux users might be feeling so generous is because this is the first time "Braid" and "Cortex Command" have been made available on Linux.
All in all, the Humble Indie Bundle 2 is proving to be a win-win-win-win situation for everyone involved.
Jonathan Blow, the developer who created "Braid" — a truly fantastic puzzle/platform game that remains one of the highest-rated games of all time — said he's enjoyed joining forces with other indie developers to not only raise money for charity, but to spread the word about indie games, which simply don't tend to get the kind of attention that mainstream games do.
"For me this is appealing, because when I make games I want a lot of people to play them, but I also need to make money in order to keep making games (games are very expensive to make!)," Blow said via e-mail. "Pay-what-you-want promotions permit both of these — the game can get out to a bunch more people, and they're all paying amounts that they are comfortable with."