Devil’s Advocate: The Humble THQ Bundle and Kotaku

December 16, 2012

I’m not going to lie to you: I don’t particularly like Kotaku. I’ll visit occasionally when a friend links me to an interesting story, but left to my own devices I don’t visit. Why? Because I find it difficult to find the interesting articles since their redesign, and most of what I end up seeing is game-related cakes. I have Reddit for that, and it works better because the cakes are easier to find, and I can completely bypass them if I want to read better articles. Recently I was sent a link to Kotaku’s take on the Humble THQ Bundle.

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Devil’s Advocate
Author: Justin Last (2007, Anniv)
Strong-worded editorials on hot-button industry topics.

There isn’t a lot of meat to the Kotaku article, but the clear implication is that Humble Bundles are only supposed to be for small games you’ve never heard of. And I’ll admit, the word “indie” in the majority of their bundle names does make me think of games developed by smaller teams. Lots of games have been featured in Humble Bundles that many people have heard of. Games like World of Goo, Braid, Bit.Trip Runner, Super Meat Boy, Shank, Psychonauts, Bastion, Torchlight, Trine and Rochard have all been featured in Humble Bundles. All of those games are available on a major console, and Braid is one of the most well-reviewed games on Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade. It may have been made by a small team, but it was played by more than three people. Hell, Psychonauts was released on the PS2, Xbox, and PC as a full retail title before its inclusion in a Humble Bundle.

What’s my point? You get big and good games from Humble Bundles whenever they’re available. I’ve gotten games from previous bundles that made my personal top ten list for their year (hi, SpaceChem!). And more importantly, with each bundle you’ve got the chance to help a struggling developer and donate to charity. The Humble THQ Bundle is no different: THQ isn’t doing great financially, but it does put out some great games. With games like Costume Quest, Darksiders, Metro 2033, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II, Saint’s Row: The Third, Stacking and You Don’t Know Jack in its publishing portfolio, it’s sad to see that the failed experiment that was uDraw bring them down.

At the end of the day, though, regardless of whether THQ is able to continue developing and publishing games, you can pick up six games for a great price (seven if you beat the average). And if you don’t think that THQ has any business making money like this and still want the games, you can adjust the sliders yourself and give all of your money to charity.

I don’t really care whether you buy the bundle, and if you do it’s none of my business how you split the money. What I do find disgusting though is game journalists chastising THQ and Humble Bundle for releasing this in the first place. If I were one of folks running Humble Bundle, I’d have put this up, too. Why? Because it meets all of the core concepts that spring to my mind when I think of a Humble Bundle: good games for a good price for a good cause. I’m loving my copy of Company of Heroes, and I hope that the charities and THQ put the money that bought it to good use.

Kotaku is analyzing the wrong things here. The game industry is a hard one, and uDraw and Homefront were enough to put THQ in financial trouble. If we as gamers want innovative titles and new experiences, then it should also fall on us to have a little sympathy for a developer that tried something new and failed. uDraw Studio didn’t appeal to me, but in a world where Draw Something took off I can see where THQ thought that digital Pictionary would work. I can see how a peripheral like the uDraw tablet got the green light, and I can see gamers being reluctant to buy a new peripheral for a set of only ten games (half of which are licensed games which already have a bad track record to answer for). What I can’t understand is journalists sitting back and acting like THQ is getting what they deserve when we ask for new, fresh ideas and gaming experiences that nobody has ever seen before.

For every NES Zapper there are multiple Tony Hawk: Ride skateboards. For every Skylanders Portal there are multiple Eye of Judgment setups. All I’m asking is that we look at the word Humble instead of the word indie. Why? Because THQ is in a humbling position right now, and the Red Cross would put your donation to good use. So what if Darksiders is a big game available on consoles developed by a large team and released on retail discs? So was Psychonauts, and nobody pinned Double Fine to the wall over that one. Consider more than what Kotaku is saying in its quest for laughs, shares and page views and remember, the video game cakes are easier to find on Reddit in r/gaming.