Struggling through slumping sales and acquisition threats, video game developer and publisher THQ (Nasdaq: THQI) has introduced a unique strategy to strengthen its brand: sell titles from some of its most popular and iconic franchises online through a popular Humble Indie Bundle pay-what-you want model.
The Humble THQ Bundle, which offers up several of the publisher's best-known Windows PC games for as little as $1 (customers have to pay a minimum of $5.69 to get a copy of “Saints Row: The Third), reached $2 million in payments in less than a day.
To date, the sale has generated $2.3 from over 420,000 purchases. The average price has wavered around $5.70.
The Humble THQ Bundle includes Steam codes for “Darksiders,” “Metro 2033,” “Red Faction Armageddon,” “Company of Heroes,” “Company of Heroes: Opening Fronts,” “Company of Heroes: Tales of Valor” along with five game soundtracks. Sold separately, these games retail on Steam for $130.
As with any previous Humble Bundle, customers choose how they want to allocate their money -- splitting it between THQ, the Humble Bundle organization or the Child's Play and American Red Cross charities.
As of this writing, the top contributor to the Humble THQ Bundle is the company’s own president, Jason Rubin, a historic game industry icon who created popular franchises such as “Crash Bandicoot” and “Jak and Daxter,” who said that he would donate the entirety of the bundle to a fan on Twitter. When prompted about his purchase on Twitter, Rubin said that he gave the entirety of his purchase to charity.
Reactions to the THQ Humble Bundle have been mixed, with Seeking Alpha wondering if the campaign was a “classic firesale desperation ploy from a company with zero hope of survival” or “marketing genius.” Other game and tech critics have question the Humble Bundle’s role in the campaign, wondering if the shift towards AAA, blockbuster brands like THQ compromised its open-source and independent creative ethic.
“The Bundle built a name for itself by promoting lesser-known, quality independent games that the creators believed in -- games that deserved a wider audience than traditional set-price sales schemes or limited indie marketing budgets would allow,” Kyle Orland wrote in Ars Technica.
In response, Humble Bundle co-founder John Graham assured fans that the group “will of course continue to support indies content as a core of our business," but told Ars Technica that he is “also eager to see if our pay-what-you-want plus charity model meshes with critically acclaimed AAA content as well."
“We’re very excited to be able to offer the gaming community a massive sale with blockbuster content and raise money for charity at the same time,” Graham added.
THQ shares jumped by around 38 percent following the announcement on Thursday, and have remained around $1.50 during trading Friday. Prior to the THQ Bundle release, the company’s stock had been wobbling dangerously around $1 per share, a price that put it back in bearish territory and at risk of a Nasdaq delisting -- a peril it narrowly avoided last July but returned to earlier this month when it posted massive second-quarter losses.