IGN acquires pay-what-you-want game shop Humble Bundle

Online media giant IGN has acquired Humble Bundle, the indie games storefront best known for its pay-what-you-want bundles that raise money for charity. The company says nothing will change for users and that “we will keep our own office, culture, and amazing team with IGN helping us further our plans.”

Humble Bundle started in 2010, its first bundle (the Humble Indie Bundle) comprising World of Goo, Gish, Aquaria and several other notable indie games, for which users could pay anything from a nickel to well over retail price. With 138,000 purchases paying an average of just over $9, it raised $1.27 million, with a significant portion going to charity (Child’s Play, if I remember correctly).

I uploaded this picture to CrunchGear in 2010.

Since then there have been dozens upon dozens of bundles and sales, with the company branching out to e-books and music as well as games. Over $100 million has been raised for charity since the company started up, and a similar amount for the developers involved — an optional small percentage could be designated as a “Humble tip” to cover operations.

There’s a separate, permanent store for games not currently in bundles, focused on making the sales process easy for indie developers (with 10 percent going to charity).

The launch in 2015 of the “Humble Monthly Bundle” gave users who paid $12 a month a new set of games to download regularly; this was originally viewed with some skepticism, but seems to have panned out well, even if the main result is probably a deeply overpopulated Steam library.

Joining IGN, a media conglomerate, doesn’t really seem like a natural move, I’d say, but it’s more than a little possible that Humble Bundle has aspirations to move beyond a variety of storefronts — aspirations that require more resources than a young 60-person company has access to.

I asked about this and co-founder John Graham offered the following:

Jeff and I started Humble Bundle in 2010 living in our parents’ homes, and never dreamed that we would be where we are today. We were not looking to sell the company, we were just focused on what we’ve always been doing: creating great games for our community while supporting charitable organizations around the world. We made a business we were passionate about without an exit in mind, and found a partner who understands who we are and what we do. IGN wants to give us the support and resources to help us do all of the things we already do better and faster.

IGN has a rough reputation among gamers, some of whom think of it as being too friendly with the greater gaming industry — trading access for favorable reviews is a common accusation, though almost certainly an untrue one. But the idea that the same parent company that owns a game store also owns a major game review site does raise some pretty obvious (although far from unique) conflict of interest concerns.

However, I (as a reader of IGN and a customer of Humble Bundle) have faith in both companies to keep a reasonable amount of separation between the two. It would only undermine both to mix them together in some unsavory way.

I’ve contacted Humble Bundle for more details on the deal and will update this post if I hear back.