A look at the first year of Humble Choice, and what’s going on with Humble Bundle

I’m Kinglink and I think it’s time we take a moment and look back at Humble Choice.

The reason is Humble Choice came out a year ago and I’ve enjoyed reviewing the choice bundles. A year is a good point to do a retrospective and look at what has been put out over that period. Of course, if you want to know about any specific Humble Choice bundle, check my channel.

Humble Bundle has also continued to crank out other deals as well and when I look at reactions, I keep hearing the same thing. People are saying the bundles are getting worse.

To be upfront about it, I’m not a huge fan of a few things going on, and I think there’s a lot of issues with Humble that aren’t getting get talked about. While the bundle quality fluctuates, I think it is more indicative of larger issues going on.

I’m going to focus this video mostly on Humble Monthly and Humble Choice. The main reason is that the weekly bundles have a lot of different factors as well as allowing the buyer to allocate their purchase price to different sources. Even just trying to talk about two different weekly bundles would be quite challenging.

Let’s start with a big thing that keeps coming up. I don’t just hear the bundles are worse, I hear Humble Bundle has gone downhill since IGN bought them. It’s almost a mantra at this point, and I just don’t see it. Especially when people are talking about the recent decline in quality.

The big thing this theory misses is IGN bought Humble in October 2017. That means to make this case, you really should be seeing the decline start somewhere around two or three years ago. I’m going to use some data compiled by a Reddit user goldarmor92. I’ll put a link to the spreadsheet in the description as well.

I could make a long boring case about how game choices haven’t changed that much. Instead, I’m just going to quickly show the MSRP for the Humble Monthly. However, I don’t think MSRP is a valid indicator of quality, but it gives us a place to start. Though if you want to know the issue with MSRP, a simple example is that Call of Duty Black Ops 4 was a 60 dollar title but also pretty dead on PC and definitely not worth that much. Whereas the month before Assassin’s Creed Origins was also a 60 dollar title, but a different value proposition. But if you mostly care about the MSRP of games, you’ll see the value didn’t change too much.

On the other hand, the games chosen have seen different picks, and while someone could make a case that some choices aren’t stellar, let’s just take a small window. Over a six month period, the early unlocks for the Humble Monthly were thus, first was Call of Duty Black Ops 3 Multiplayer Starter pack, SOMA, Grim Dawn, Stardew Valley, Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen, and the first Vermintide. These aren’t bad games, but as the big headliners, they aren’t that exciting even though I adore SOMA and Stardew Valley. So, sure, that might be a sign that the quality has slipped.

The only problem is this is a list of the games that were given out from August 2016 through January 2017. Meaning this is a year before IGN was even in the picture. This isn’t intended to trick anyone, but rather to show that there are streaks of poor choices Pre-IGN.

On the other side of the buyout there was a three-month stretch with Civilization VI, Dark Souls 3, and then a month with a triple pack including Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, and Mafia 3. Those games were released from February 2018 to April 2018. I don’t know, I personally think the second list there sounds pretty good, but genre tastes and what is already in your library will depend on the individual.

But then what about Humble Choice. Personally, I think Humble Choice is a little weaker. I actually called this out when Humble Choice was announced. With more games revealed at once, there’s less incentive to have one big title and more incentive to push higher MSRP, or games people want but aren’t excited for.

Still, let’s pop up the MSRPs and show the value. Unsurprisingly, the value is actually very strong, though remember that people who don’t have the classic subscription are paying fifty percent more for the bundle. But what this chart means is Humble Choice is a more valuable bundle, but I think this also proves my point. MSRP or value means very little as the specific games that are chosen means more. The MSRP may be higher, yet I preferred getting one or two major AAA titles from Humble Monthly than the array of games that are worth more on Humble Choice.

Personal opinion. I just don’t play most of the Humble Choice games to completion. I admit I have a huge backlog of over one hundred and eighty games I really want to play and a massive library of games now reaching two thousand titles, but I also don’t feel the pull to play most of Humble Choice’s titles for more than the hour or two I play for the video.

But ok, what about the concept that IGN buying Humble has ruined the company. You know. I could dig in deeper here but in general, no, I don’t think IGN buying Humble ruined Humble or fundamentally changed them. I think there’s something else going on.

Before we go there, I want to talk about the last year of Humble Choice and a bit of an issue I’ve noticed. So on New Year Day, Epic Games revealed the BIG game that they were giving away for free. The 2019 title was Yooka Laylee and the Impossible Lair, for 2020 it was Jurassic World: Evolution. The next week in 2020 was Crying Suns. Humble Choice fans probably already recognize all three of these games.

Amazon Prime or Twitch gave out Sigma Theory, and Void Bastards.

Then there’s Xbox Game Pass, which has Battle Chasers: Nightwar, Neoverse, Children of Morta, and Indivisible to name a few.

All of these games have been available as part of Humble Choice. Once I started to go through lists of previous Humble Choices on Is There Any Deal, I noticed that many of these games have been bundled since they have been in Humble Choice. Some of them multiple times, and of course some of them before being in Choice. It’s starting to feel that some of the major titles will be given away for free before long by other systems, and that’s not a great feeling.

There’s also a decent amount of deals being offered for Choice. I know some people have gotten offers of Humble Choice Premium for as low as six dollars. I know there are theories in the business world of loss leaders and how a deal like that is really good for the company. The theory is that instead of paying a lot of money to acquire a customer through advertising, it passes on the cost of customer acquisition by offering a really good deal to new customers. That theory might be what’s going on, but I can’t shake the feeling it may also mean that Humble will have less capital to spend on the deal part of the equation if more people are paying less.

Though I want to take a step back in time. When Humble started, the idea was simple. Rather than sell a couple of copies of a game for full price or a decent amount of copies for a slightly discounted price, Humble packaged several games together and got a huge volume deal for everyone where people would choose their own prices and move a huge number of games for whatever they were willing to pay. It was rather strange, but it worked out as people are more generous than anyone thought.

Eventually, this evolved into buying a tier of games and getting more games the more you paid, but both systems are somewhat similar. Profits per title might be lower at times, but the number of games sold could create buzz for the bundle, attention for a specific game, and working in volume could create a larger profit. And there were charity or tax benefits possible for companies involved. I admit I don’t have the full story there.

That’s not even mentioning other possibilities where these games could have sequels, DLC, and other money-making opportunities, including eventual microtransactions which suck, but the publisher and developer found reasons to be in the bundles and were able to make some money off these titles.

The fact is no matter whatever the motive of the companies was, what Humble did worked. Humble was one of the first places to give ridiculous deals. They actually started around ten years ago doing this and they were alone in this space for a decent amount of time. It clearly worked well enough that they grew into a decent-sized business and was bought out by IGN.

The problem is it’s been ten years. Humble is no longer alone. Indiegala and Fanatical are websites where both are trying to do what Humble does with some success, though I don’t think they do as well with the headliners. But we also have many sources who buy games from developers and publishers to just give them away. The most well-known is Epic who wants people to use their platform. Many publishers toss out a free game every so often. Twitch has a constant stream of games, and now we are seeing Xbox Game Pass which just has a huge number of games for a decent price.

Humble is no longer the only one in this space, but instead is competing against multiple different offerings on different platforms and different price ranges. That’s not to say Humble can’t make great deals anymore, but it also means that if a game is willing to be put on Humble because it’s close to the end of sales life, after it’s on Humble there are also incentives to cash in on the game with other services and put it on one of the other platforms I’ve mentioned, if not all of them.

But there’s one other problem for Humble, and it’s something that may have finally caught up with them. Most people know there’s a grey market for video games digital keys. If you don’t want to pay the full price for a title some people get digital keys and are willing to sell them to you at a huge discount. There are a lot of different sources for the keys and a lot of duplicitous means for acquiring them.

But the thing is Humble is giving keys, if a bundle is on Humble and Humble sells one thousand units, that’s one thousand keys sold, so hopefully, that means one thousand people buy the keys and redeem them. But if a person buys the bundle for another game and gets the key, they’re still able to trade their keys, and Humble does state users can gift keys to friends, so that’s great.

Of course, some people bend that rule by running giveaways with their keys which is a little more nebulous. Then finally some people will just sell their keys to third parties to recoup the cost they’ve paid and those third parties will resell them. I’ll leave discussions on the grey market for the comment section.

The point here is not just those key resellers are a problem but what’s worse is that key resellers can get a decent number of keys from a humble bundle, those keys drive the price per key down and suddenly the developer now has to deal with a grey market that is selling many keys for such a low price that the developer will never be able to compete. There’s a lot more to the key reseller topic but let’s hold off on that one for now.

I will say I know from some people in the industry that it is part of the consideration on what type of deals they want to work with and yeah that makes Humble less attractive to a publisher or developer.

So let’s sum this up, what’s going on with Humble? Well, Humble used to be a place where developers could make an amazing deal and get decent amounts of money and exposure in exchange for heavily discounting their game. Today they can still do that, but there are also multiple places looking to discount or give away the game as part of a subscription or just to attract new users to their marketplace. Humble’s not the only option.

But beyond that, Humble has changed the arrangement when they moved to Humble Choice, and rather than only promoting a single major title as they did in Humble Monthly, they are promoting an entire bundle of 12 games and likely have changed the distribution of the profits between games. They’re also giving large discounts to people for joining Humble Choice and ultimately that has to be affecting the deals they can make.

Finally, Humble Choice provides long-term issues for games in the bundles due to key trading and key reselling and enables the grey markets that traffic in the keys. As such, Humble has become a less desirable place for some developers.

Does this mean Humble is over and you should just subscribe to Xbox Game Pass? Ehhh, no. I still buy Humble Choice for a few reasons. While I now own Jurassic World Evolution on Epic, and Sigma Theory on Twitch, neither of those are on Steam which is where I prefer to keep my library of games.

Xbox Game Pass is an excellent deal for the number of games on offer, however, they’re not permanent. If you’re in the middle of playing Children of Morta and the Xbox Game Pass’ deal to host the game expires, Children of Morta is gone and if you want to play more of it, you have to go buy it.

If you want your games to be permanently available on Steam, Humble still seems like the best choice. However, I think we’re at the point that the realist in me says we’re probably on the decline for Humble. That’s not to say we can’t have great bundles or great options in the future, but I also think the height of Humble is now in the past and due to that maybe it’s time to readjust our expectations for the website.

I don’t know, I’m sure I’ll hear all the same arguments the next time Humble has a bundle, but at least I got a chance to talk about what I think of Humble Choice after its first year.

If you enjoyed this, consider subscribing, I throw out a review of the Humble Choice at the beginning of each month so I can tell you the specifics of what’s in them, how the games play, and what you might want to get excited about.

I’ll pop up this month’s humble choice review on the screen if you’re eager to hear more, and also my list of the top games of 2020.

Until then I’m Kinglink and thanks for watching.

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