Home Open Source Gaming FTW: The Success of the Humble Indie Bundle

Open Source Gaming FTW: The Success of the Humble Indie Bundle

Earlier this month, a group of indie game developers announced the “Humble Indie Bundle,” a pay-what-you-want campaign in which donations netted you the download of five video games (for Windows, Mac, and Linux) with the option of earmarking part of your donation to Child’s Play or EFF. The games included 2D Boy’s World of Goo, Frictional’s Penumbra Overture, bit-Blot’s Aquaria, Wolfire’s Lugaru HD, Machinarium’s Samarost 2 and Cryptic Sea’s Gish.

The “Humble Indie Bundle” was wildly successful, with almost 140,000 contributors shelling out over $1.2 million, over 30% of which was allocated to the charities. And in an act of “giving back,” the developers of Penunbra Overture, Aquaria, Lugaru and Gish pledged to go open source.

I chatted with Jeffrey Rosen, co-founder of Wolfire Games today about the Humble Indie Bundle and about his thoughts on open source gaming and the potential for repeating the bundle’s success.

Rosen said that gamers have long been asking about the code for Lugaru and had already reverse-engineered parts in order to design mods, maps, and new campaigns for the game. Open sourcing Lugaru made sense. Several bugs and fixes to Lugaru have already been added since opening the code last week. “The only question we’re asking ourselves now,” says Rosen, “is why we didn’t open source sooner.” Wolfire’s latest game, Overgrowth, is built with AngelScript and with HTML5, making parts of it open as well.

It may be that the gaming industry is a perfect match for open source, as both gaming and open source rely on a community that is interested in a certain amount of reciprocity – contributing and sharing so as to improve the code (and the game).

Another key to the success of the “Humble Indie Bundle” was the collaboration with several indie gaming companies. Rosen said he’d often seen Steam promote “indie bundles” to huge success and wanted to try this on his terms. Wolfire Games is a small startup, with only four employees, and by collaborating with other indies, they’ve been able to reach a wider audience. The massive success of the Humble Indie Bundle is a case in point.

Rosen’s brother and co-founder David wrote a blog post reminding people that openware isn’t freeware. “The source code is intended to help out modders and aspiring game programmers, and will probably not be particularly useful for gamers who just want to get the game for free. Since we have no DRM, there are probably easier ways to pirate the game than learning how to compile and run a C++ project from a Mercurial repo.”

Rosen says there doesn’t seem to be any loss of revenue or sales by going open source, although with the success of the Humble Indie Bundle, this little indie might have seen more sales this month that even before. Regardless, it does point to the strength in collaboration and the potential for open source for indie gaming startups.

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