Humble Bundle has now raised more than $95 million for charity, according to co-founder John Graham. Speaking at the Digital Dragons conference today, Graham called it "a huge number" that the company "never expected to be possible."
That figure was raised over seven years in which Humble Bundle has grown from a team of two to more than 60 people. It started out by selling the game bundles after which the company is named, but it now has a diverse business that operates an online store selling individual games, a monthly subscription service and, as of this year, a publishing arm.
The company donates money to charity from all of its activities, but the bundles still grab most of the attention. The most obvious example if from recent times: the Humble Freedom Bundle, which was sold as a response to President Donald Trump's anti-immigration policies, and ultimately raised more than $6.7 million in the space of a week.
"What good are we as a charity fundraising platform if we can't take a stand with everybody?"
Of course, while that money was raised for charity, it was an inherently political act on the part of Humble and the developers and publishers who provided the generous amount of content the Freedom Bundle contained. Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz following his talk, Graham said that the company is careful "not to overstep our bounds" when it comes to how the money is distributed.
Part of that are the "choose a charity" sliders that allows customers to select which organisations receive their money. "You're right that the Humble Freedom Bundle was a little bit bolder than what we normally do," he continued. "But we were seeing from our employees, and from everyone we know in the industry around us, that people really wanted to do something.
"Jeff [Rosen, co-founder] and I kept on looking at each other and thinking, 'What good are we as a charity fundraising platform if we can't take a stand with everybody, and galvanise the energy around this in a productive way.'
"And, y'know, you don't have to buy a bundle, if you disagree with every single one of the charities. If you disagree with two but not one, you can use the sliders... We try to maintain that choice in all that we do, while showing our support for awesome causes when we think there's a need for it.
"It's more a subtle art than a science."
The news of Humble Bundle's $95 million milestone arrived at the end of a presentation in which Graham showed the role that taking calculated risks had played in allowing the company to grow. Every company and every game is different, he said, and it's only in experimenting and taking chances that you learn specific insights about what you do and the part of the market in which you operate.
"The biggest problem with a failed experiment is that nobody knows about it, and nobody cares. That doesn't devastate your business"
"Really all I am is a stack of experiments," he said. "Innovation is key to relevance and survival in the games industry. I don't think any of us ever get to stand still. We always have to be questing to do something different and exciting and new - experiments are really what get us there.
"If you dig deep you can think of ways in your own business where you land in that 'Have to Try' zone... Usually, the biggest problem with a failed experiment is that nobody knows about it, and nobody cares. That doesn't devastate your business, and all you did was waste your time."
The company's latest strategy is to move into publishing, in part to increase the positive influence Humble can have on the lifespan of a given product; from helping them to find an audience and gain access to the right stores, and then offering a variety of ways to monetise those products through the store, the subscription service and, eventually, bundles - all of its feeding back into charity.
According to Graham, the priorities for its publishing arm will be "team, game, and then the funding plan." He also expressed an interest in working with developers who are exploring the kind of real-world issues that Humble attempts to address through its charitable donations.
"When you ground your development in something real and tangible like that, you tend to do something more artistic that resonates with consumers. When you're sincere, and you find the right approach to that it can result in a better game
"I think that, inevitably, we'd going to have some overlap with games that have more of that soul and power to them."
GamesIndustry.biz is a media partner of Digital Dragons. Our hotel and travel costs were provided by the organiser.