Posted on 21 Oct 2017 by L Coulsen

You Can’t Spell Humble Without IGN

So IGN bought Humble. And it went down about as well as you would expect. With more than a few people declaring 10/10: won’t buy again. A liberal dose of hyperbole all around, I’m sure, but there’s also a grain of truth to it.

Now, IGN have assured us that their acquisition will not result in any interference, which may very well be true. But the general consensus of IGN, in good old internet land, is not the most favourable of affairs. They do, after all, have an apparent history of being a tad on the contentious side. Often seeming to score games based more on how much attention they can get for being contrarian. I would like to stress though, that is an apparent behaviour. Using the dictionary definition of the word as opposed to its more commonly applied colloquial meaning. As in, that’s the appearance of their approach, not necessarily its actuality.

It’s not really good form for us to go shitting all over another establishment, especially not one with a rather more pronounced presence than we. Sure, that might very well lead to us getting a lot of clickbait attention as we rally the troops of pitchfork commoners to storm the towers. But it wouldn’t be the most professional, or ethical, approach for us to take. So let’s see if we can’t take a more neutral look at this and weigh up the situation going forward, rather than an immediate, knee-jerk reaction. That’s, partly, why it has taken us this long to comment on the situation.

Since its inception, Humble has gone on to be one of the most respected names in the “bundle-verse”. Raising tens of millions for various charities since its inception in March 2010. Reporting over $70 million raised, across their lifespan, shortly before the new tax year in 2016, and it’s not hard to see why. Consistently running five or more bundles at a time, across a wide variety of genres and media. Attracting some of the biggest names in the industry, as well as giving huge exposure to some of the smallest and most underappreciated. With the option to set your own price and allocate the revenue sharing however you should choose being one of the most appreciated features.

A lot like that, ya. Scary.

Ironically, I expect it’s the latter that led to Humble being keen to find an alternate funding source. Using purely anecdotal evidence, both myself and many of the people I know frequently gave the lion’s share, if not all of their hard earned dosh to charities. Leaving both developers and Humble themselves a bit out in the cold. That kind of thing has to leave a mark. Immense respect to Humble themselves for not bemoaning the situation and instead keeping their focus on the superb work they’ve done this far. I’m frankly astounded they’ve managed to keep going as long as they have.

That leaves the real question being, not why Humble were even looking for a buyer, buy why IGN? And that, almost certainly, hearkens back to the way the internet responded to the news. IGN have a bad reputation amongst gamers, and has for quite some time. Making the acquisition of an entity so well regarded as a rather appealing prize. A potential, nigh instant, boost to their public perception at the cost of a, relatively, minor financial investment. They wouldn’t be the first business venture to try something like this, and they assuredly will not be the last.

But of course, like just about everyone else who has ever tried this, it hasn’t worked. Instead, causing a vocal response of pretty much universal condemnation, and of course, that means absolutely diddly squat. Knee-jerk reactions are precisely that. The full ramifications of Humble’s new ownership will take far more than a few days of internet screaming to fully come to grips with. The next couple of months will be absolutely critical, with the first half of next year being the real crunch time. The make or break, proof is in the pudding, insert idiom of choice here.

Honestly, there probably won’t be a great deal different for the foreseeable future. Humble almost certainly already have a number of bundles stacked up well in advance. Things like this don’t just happen overnight after all. So, at a very rough estimate, I expect business will run as usual until at least the end of this year, so far as in frequency of new content is concerned. Assuming the new boss-types don’t try muscling in with “great new ideas” that is. A distinct possibility, but one I see as unlikely. Making drastic changes, especially immediately after new management takes over, never does go well. You know the definition of insanity… it has absolutely bugger all to do with repeating the same behaviour, but just go with it.

Listen very carefully, I shall say this only once.

It’s those six months of 2018 when we should be expecting to see any potential changes coming in to play. Revenue may see a bit of dip before then, but I wouldn’t expect it to be a massive change. Just look at that infamous “boycott COD because no dedicated servers” shenanigans from Modern Warfare 2. What people say, what they mean, and more importantly, what they do are rarely on a first name basis, especially among our fellow gamers. So the proof will be in the pudding as far as that one goes, with the quality of bundle contents being the final arbiter of how many are sold. Like how I’ve yet to buy in to the monthly bundle, because there hasn’t been enough to interest me in doing so. Meanwhile, everyone and their uncle said they’d never get one, but they consistently sell in large numbers all the same.

It’s also worth considering, for all the negative press and impotent raging online. IGN have a lot of clout in the video game world. They’ve been around for a long arse time, and have a lot of exposure. Which could, and I do stress, could be leveraged to get us some pretty darn spiffing content. They do always seem to get review copies after all, so it’s not at all unrealistic that could be turned into ever increasing big names dipping their toe. Actually, that’s the thing that worries me the most, that IGN will push for more focus on the big companies, leaving the indies in the dust. You know, the people who actually benefit the most (aside from charities) from the work Humble do. Their damned name is a pretty big clue what their focus was!

Unfortunately, this is exactly what I can see happening, and I think we all know, it would work like a charm. The lure of getting massive titles for a fraction their usual cost is a very attractive prospect. No point beating around the bush, free games was a very, very large part of why I got into game reviewing. All that fine, ethical posturing goes straight out of the window, for a lot of people, when they see the chance to get something cheap. Especially when it’s something that has a stigma attached to it. See, it’s okay that I got Pony Yiffing Contest 3, it was on sale and I’m only doing it for the intraweb lulz.

So what does this all mean? Frankly, it’s too early to say. There are a great many, potential, concerns for the future. But at present, that’s all they are. If you want my advice, keep a close eye on what happens over the next year or so. If the frequency, quality and content of the bundles changes significantly, it might not be a terrible thing. So keep a closer eye on what happens with the Humble structure. If staff start suddenly disappearing, their contracts mysteriously terminated for example, that should be the warning signs. If IGN do, really, stay true to their word, it’s unlikely that their image will change overnight, if at all… but let’s at least give them a chance to prove us wrong.

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