If you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of years, you might be excused for not knowing about this Humble Bundle thing. As a long-time Linux user, the Humble Bundles have always been of interest to me, and I’ve always tried to support them financially. It’s also always been interesting to me that Linux users typically pay more for the Bundles than their Windows or Mac counterparts. Clearly there’s a profitable market for Linux games.
Canonical has jumped on the Humble Bundle bandwagon this time around, and are making it easy for Ubuntu users to install the games they’ve purchased. Each of the Humble Bundle games is available individually for direct purchase through the Ubuntu Software Center at full retail price; but if you buy the current Humble Bundle you can quickly and easily install them through the Software Center, rather than download them and manually install them.
When you purchase the Humble Bundle, you’ll get an authorization link that tells the Ubuntu Software Center that you now own those games. You then fire up the Software Center and install the games. Think Steam, but without having to manually key in an authorization code.
Canonical is also donating money to each charity for each of the Humble Bundle games. Their mechanism for this is a little weird, at first glance, but makes sense within the context of the Bundle. Canonical will donate $100 for each game for every 5,000 Facebook “Likes” that game gets in the Software Center, up to a maximum of $500. This allows the charities to get additional money without overly skewing the average price of the Humble Bundle.
I asked David Pitkin, Canonical’s Director of Consumer Applications, about this, specifically wondering why Canonical didn’t just make a flat donation to each charity? Pitkin acknowledged that this was an experiment to track each game’s relative popularity in a public way. While Canonical tracks download numbers for Software Center applications, that information isn’t very visible to end users, and of little interest to non-Linux users.
When people pay more than the current average Humble Bundle price, they get a bonus game. As more and more people pay to unlock that bonus game, the average price goes up and up. This means people late to the Humble Bundle party will have to pay a bit more than the early adopters. Canonical’s donation strategy will also gently increase the average price over time.
Canonical has done a lot of work to ensure that each game is a first-class citizen within the Ubuntu ecosystem. This means building and testing .deb packages for them, ensuring that updates can be pushed out automatically through Ubuntu’s normal software update mechanism, and performing quality assurance testing on the whole thing.
I asked Pitkin for a rough estimate on how many Ubuntu users have purchased the Bundle thus far. His immediate response was “thousands and thousands!”. A followup with Pitkin revealed that Canonical saw ten thousand downloads in the first 72 hours of the current Humble Bundle.