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The Humble Store is stealing all my money

Super Meat Boy Screenshot - 1156453

I would like to report a crime, GameZone readers. Over the past several days, a devilish entity—no, a mastermind—has plucked nearly $50 from my bank account. I have long since thrown my hands up in abject despair, for I have no means of combating the thief.  Even now I feel its unwavering vice around my digital wallet, its cold whispers in my ear. “80 percent off… 60 percent off… One-day only… All DLC included…” I cannot resist the value. I am forlorn, despondent possibly beyond repair, and completely devoid of free time. Sleep has dwindled along with my free hard drive space, my Steam library has swelled to the brink, and there is no end in sight for this costly spiral.

Humble Bundle Inc.

But it’s for charity, so I shall endure the hardships of the Humble Store’s Debut sale.

It has now been nine days since Humble Bundle Inc. revealed the Humble Store, a companion to their popular Humble Bundles. While the Bundles are featured on a bi-weekly basis and purchased together, the Store’s listings are updated daily and available individually through your typical add-to-cart system. The key difference is in pricing: Bundles allow the buyer to pay what they want, be it $0.01 or $500 (though some titles are locked behind a minimum contribution—the average for that bundle), while Store items are sold at a fixed price. However, the trend of enormous discounts—often reaching well above half-off—remains.

In all seriousness, the Humble Store has proven to be an absolute bombshell. Humble Bundles are great and all, but if you aren’t interested in the games, you’re stuck with a two-week dry spell before the sale refreshes. The addition of a more frequently updated avenue eliminates this waiting period, and more importantly, allows more games to be featured. And, of course, it means more money is going to charities like American Red Cross and Electronic Frontier Foundation, as 10% of all Store proceeds are donated.

Humble Store Screenshot

However, some of the titles featured in the Store are suspect. There’s been the expected rainbow of indie, sure. You’ve got your Dust: An Elysian Trail, your Super Meat Boy, a dash of Gunpoint (which we loved) and too many more to name already. And there’ve been some classics—Psychonauts and System Shock 2 made a candid appearance, for example. But what of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (also love) or Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist, both of which were available at full price? If it’s not on sale, what’s it doing in Humble’s archive? Why are past deals still available once their tempting discounts have subsided? Where’s the incentive?

Well, that’s kind of the point. Humble Bundles have always been about spur-of-the-moment impulse buys. Prospective buyers would want one or two of the games included and happily shell out a buck or two to snatch them up. The Humble Store, on the other hand, often ends up as a means of simply purchasing games while donating to charity foundations. It is for this reason that the Store stands to explode in popularity, and become comparable to a digital retailer as a result. However, rather than a competitor to, say, Steam, Humble has become a neutral third-party merchant.

For the sake of arguing, let’s say there are five parties involved here: 1) Humble Bundle Inc., 2) the various charities receiving donations, 3) the creators of the games featured, 4) Steam, the Store’s most popular delivery platform (or more broadly, Valve), and 5) the consumers buying the games. The Humble Store is profitable, directly or indirectly, for all involved. The charity groups, content creators and Humble itself receive direct compensation for every purchase (10, 75 and 15 percent respectively), while Steam benefits from the activity. Direct downloads are available, sure (with support for all operating systems), but it’s a given that redeeming Steam keys are a popular form of delivery. As a result, the Steam Network will gain users (and possibly accounts) to back its own sales which, more often than not, can go toe-to-toe with Humble.

Steam Sales3

Hoo. Rah.

Then there’s us, the bargain-hunting gamers looking to get the most game for their buck. In addition, there’s room for a sixth party: Gamers who would rather purchase a full-price title from the Humble Store directly, solely to donate to charity in the process (hey, it may not shake the corporate ladder, but generosity does have some pull, especially when it’s free).

So, what’s the end result here? Will the Humble Store grow beyond your run-of-the-mill discounts on existing titles and break into Beta or Alpha access purchases? Can we expect to see the addition of other incentives to purchase software from Humble? And will other retailers find the writing on the wall and endorse comparable promotions, or at the very least, be forced to compete in the discount olympics?

Possibly, probably, and almost definitely. However, I’m up to my eyeballs in indie games, and therefore cannot think straight. Talk to me when I run out of hard drive space. Or money. Whatever comes first.

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Austin Wood
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