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ZPavelZ

Pavel joined Apr 28, 2011

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Report article RSS Feed Small analysis of Humble Voxatron Debut results

Posted by ZPavelZ on Nov 19th, 2011

So, the game bundle derby is over. It was fun to watch and will, undoubtedly, be interesting to analyse.
So what have the bundles brought us? I am not going to list the games, as they can all be found on the respective pages, but I am going to try and analyze a little bit of what happened. First of all, let us start with the recent Humble Bundle effort - the Humble Voxatron Debut..
As you might have seen HVD has generated about the same amount as Humble Frozenbyte Bundle. A little bit less, in fact (HFB made around 910500 USD total, while HVD only made approximately 902500). This means HVD has generated the absolute minimum amount of all HBs up to now. Is it because the bundle is so bad? The answer would be an obvious NO. It still features lots of games (7) with enough diversity to entertain and be of value. It also included two Steam smash hits - Blocks that Matter and Binding of Isaac both sold very well on Steam (being in the "selected games" list for quite some time). So what could possibly cause this result?
Now, first, it is necessary to say - 900000 USD is still a very respectable amount of money, and in no way should it be considered as "low". The question is "why is it LOWER than the rest?". The answer, I am afraid, lies in the change in the pricing system. As I have wrote before, HVD was the first set to include "new to Bundle" games on a "beat the average to get" model for new customers. Yes, we have already seen the "beat the average" model for older "bonus" games for other bundles (i.e. for previous bundles - HB1 for HB2, HB2 for HB3, HFB for Humble Frozen Synapse Bundle). However, this time these games were new-to-bundle, which means no previous bundle customers owned them. On one hand, this allowed to increase the per-customer average. On the other hand, this lead to big shift in the "average balancing mechanism" of HB.
Yes, Humble Bundle does have an average purchase balancing mechanism just like Indie Royale does. This mechanism is less obvious, but equally important. For Humble Bundle "pay more than average" model the people, who pay more (thus increasing the average) are outweighed by those, who pay less than average (thus decreasing it). Some might say it is not good that someone would like to pay little for excellent games, but those people also help to keep the average down.
In the case of HVD, though, since two biggest hits of the bundle were available only if you "pay-above-the-average" and were introduced after the first 24 hours of the bundle running (very fast compared to usual Bundle game addition terms). Thus the average was steadily growing, and finished at about 5.25 USD.
High average purchase and low total amount of income probably means that the majority of customers preferred to pay more to get all bundle games, but many potential buyers became disinterested in buying HVD altogether. Is this good or bad? The answer, obviously, depends on what the HB owners were aiming for. If they wanted to scoop the biggest amount of cash possible for the available games, than clearly their recent strategy did not work out so well. On the contrary, if they wanted to rise the amount of payment per customer, they should have been quite successful (recent bundles had average payment below 5 USD except for HIB 3 with an average of 5.83 USD).
For an outsider it's hard to estimate, which strategy is better as bigger total amount should generally mean bigger incomes for everyone, but would create bigger overhead costs. On the contrary, higher value per purchase should mean less overhead burden and more money for bundle members from every single customer.
What we can say for sure, is that HB continues to experiment with various marketing models and all of their attempts were successful so far.

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QuixoticRocket
QuixoticRocket Nov 23 2011, 6:04am said:

Interesting analysis, but I think you're missing one aspect here:
How much money goes to the developers and how much goes to charity.
The HVD may have made lots of money (although not as much as prec bundles) but if it's all to charity then the developers are not making anything (other than free advertising ofc).

Of course I doubt this is a major issue for them (otherwise they'd limit or remove the charity portion) but it'd be nice to get a breakdown of what the organisers thought of the process and what their goals were.

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ZPavelZ
ZPavelZ Nov 23 2011, 2:21pm replied:

Thanks for taking the time to read my post. I am glad you liked it. You are right, the question of money splitting is extremely important. Thanks for drawing my attention to it. However, the problem is that we know very little information about HB results and even less concerning those of IR. In the most recent video for Humble Introversion Bundle John Graham said they managed to raise a total of 2500000 USD for Charity, while in the video for either the previous (HVD) bundle or the one before it he mentioned the amount of 2000000 USD. But that, along with the "default split" option is about all we know about the possible splitting of money. I know for a fact that some developers were not happy with what they got from HB, but not much more besides that.
Only recently (in fact, about an hour ago) I saw a post on indiegames.com in this article Indiegames.com from somebody who claims to be one of the bundle organizers under the name of "simonc". Literally it says: "As one of the bundle organizers, just wanted to mention that the 50% figure that was going around isn't correct. All parties (the two co-organizers and the four individual developers) get roughly a similar share of the money." As you can see from the subsequent discussion at least one person, who seems to be a developer and a potential participant of the IR bundles is not happy with these numbers as well.
You can see the author of this article Diygamer.com trying to make assumptions concerning the possible split of the money, but he also quickly wraps it up by saying "I do not have enough data".
In totaly I would agree with the aforementioned author that the cumulative effect of generating a good sum of money and an even bigger amount of publicity over a short period of time should make bundles worthy enough to the developers. At least, I sincerely hope so.

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QuixoticRocket
QuixoticRocket Nov 24 2011, 5:39am replied:

Thought you'd find this article interesting: Twotribes.com
Basically it reports back on a sale that Rush had last year over christmas and how the price cuts change sales figures.
I've read similar things elsewhere before. When an indie game gets some advertising and has a big price-cut sale they sell like hotcakes and the developers actually get a fair amount of money compared to what they would normally get.
It does rely on effective advertising and making lots of sales, but I'd say that the Humble Bundles and Indie Royale seem to be spreading the word enough to make a difference.
Of course it all comes down to the cut and at the end of the day everyone needs to get paid. If everyone is getting an equal cut then I don't see much of an issue.

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