Monthly game profile for June: Humble Bundle and indie games

Only our second fourth-week-of-the-month game profile, and already we’re cheating a little bit… instead of profiling a game or game genre, we’re discussing an intriguing new(ish) distribution model: the pay-what-you-like (usually, and subject to varying constraints) indie bundles.

The most immediately important thing about these bundles is that they are fantastic ways to sample extraordinarily diverse selections of independently-created, but sometimes extremely well-known and/or well-made, games (and often music, and occasionally books) at incredibly low prices. If you’re looking for an affordable way to stock up a games PC at your library, or get some cheap-but-interesting games to play yourself, it is well worth checking out these bundles.

Probably the best-known examples are the periodic Indie Royale bundles, and the Humble Indie charitable bundles, which allow you to specify how much of your payment goes to the organisers, how much to the developers of the games, and how much to the Child’s Play hospital charity and/or the Electronic Frontier Foundation. (Other bundles also support charity in various ways, but the Humble Bundles set out to do this from the beginning, and occasionally get big-name studios helping out in this way.)

Other places you can find these bundles include indiebundle.org, www.indiegala.com, and www.bundlestars.com; and the bundles are now such a well-known phenomenon that there is even an overview site that aims to keep people up to date with at least some of the bundles: www.indiegamebundles.com. (This site does accept paid advertising in the usual manner, but it does not appear to require payment in order to have the bundle listed at all. Apologies if I’m misreading this!)

However, perhaps the most interesting thing about these models is that they represent game developers actively prioritising finding an audience (and doing good) over monetising their works – and doing so to the extent that new businesses can be founded to support this approach. Obviously they still need to eat and still want to make money from the work they’ve done; but both in order to make a name for themselves, and for the simple reason that they made something and want an audience to share it with, they are not so doctrinaire about every person who encounters their work paying them a predetermined RRP.

It’s refreshing to encounter the old art-for-art’s sake attitude… and it also offers me personally some hope for the possibility of an e-lending collection.

For a sampling of the kinds of games available through these bundles, I’ll invite folks to use the comments below for reviews of games people have bought in a bundle (please let us know which bundle, or at least site!). I’ll start things off with a few of my own:

Plants vs Zombies

I managed to buy the Android version of this tower defense classic in a Humble Bundle with Android. A very accessible, beautifully paced game where you plant various plants in your yard to ward off waves of zombies coming to eat your brains. The game is exactly as silly as that premise sounds, and with mechanics that are intuitive to grasp but lend themselves to surprisingly complex play. The full PC version comes with some terrific optional puzzle modes that showcase this flexibility well. Two new games in the franchise have just been announced – a 3rd-person (pea-)shooter called Garden Warfare and a sequel to the original game.

Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars

One of the original point-and-click adventure games, this European classic tells the story of two plucky adventurers investigating a conspiracy with its roots in the ancient order of knights. Lauded for its puzzles, voice acting and storyline, it’s recently been polished up and re-released in anticipation of another upcoming entry in the series it spawned, which was recently crowdfunded on Kickstarter. It’s available until early July 2013 in a bundle on Humblebundle.com.

Over to you!

Edit: more reviews in the next post!

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