Humble Bundle has been on a very downward slide in the reputation department as of late. Humble Bundle used to be a great way to support charity while also getting some good games for cheap. Millions of dollars were raised for charities over the last decade by the effort. By offering deep discounts, many got to play games they might not have otherwise bought. That started to end a few years ago.
After IGN’s parent company bought Humble Bundle in 2017 dark clouds gathered. Many foretold of an end of the glory days amid coming corporatization. As the quality and appeal of bundles started to decline, some complained, but most ignored the problems on the horizon. Then, earlier this year, everything shifted when something completely unnecessary was announced.
A new slider system for payment was announced, replacing the pay-what-you-want system of years past. Thanks to the new sliders that Humble Bundle announced, the focus had clearly shifted towards using charity as a tax benefit, rather than the main focus. As we saw when the slider system was announced, a $25 bundle sent a maximum of $20 to the publisher and $3.75 to charity.
So instead of the majority of money going to the real reason people spent thousands of dollars on Humble Bundle, profit has taken center stage. The move was very unpopular, so much so, that the company pulled back from those plans. Well, it seems like they did what companies making unpopular decisions always do: they waited for the outrage to die down, and did the bad thing anyway.
The changes are explained in a very soft way in a post directly on the Humble site:
“In mid-July, we’ll be rolling out a new iteration of sliders that creates even more opportunities to support important causes. While splits on each bundle will vary, on average there will be a minimum amount for Humble Bundle between 15 – 30%. Sliders will clearly indicate any minimums to customers and the flexibility to adjust donations will be available in every purchase of a bundle. This change comes after ten years of having the option to lower Humble’s percentage to zero.”
“Why change after ten years? The PC storefront landscape has changed significantly since we first launched bundles in 2010, and we have to continue to evolve with it to stay on mission. The update will allow us to continue to offer great prices on amazing games, books and software all while supporting important charitable initiatives with every single purchase.”
So yeah, screw that. And to the statement above, let’s point something out. The issue isn’t just that Humble was taking a bigger cut. It’s that you were paying most of the money from the bundle to publishers, and not to charity. A charitable effort should be focused almost entirely on that, not on padding AAA pockets. And since the company admitted that it will change the cut over time, we can expect Humble to try and force through that larger cut as much as possible. So having the option to negate Humble’s cut in some instances doesn’t change the fact that you’re turning the platform’s main focus into a tax benefit for the companies involved.
You clearly played your audience by pushing out the first slider iteration, with a cut as high as 30%, and have now gone back to the “compromise” of 15%. This is a common marketing tactic. We all know that you’re going to push that higher cut as much as possible. And even if we take the statement of spending that cut on better content at face value, what will that translate to? Vague allusions to a better future don’t make bitter pills easier to swallow.