The Rise of Android Indie Bundles

Posted Aug 19, 2012 at 7:24 pm in Threads > Games

I recently read a blog post lamenting the end of indie game development on Android. It seems that as Android continues growing as a platform and attracts bigger, professional game developers, there is some concern among indie game developers that they will be unable to compete. Two of the problems cited in the blog post are competition and discovery. With the removal of the “Just In” category, indie developers lost what may be their biggest avenue for discovery. When a Google employee was asked what indie developers can do to compete, he replied, “Try to publish through one of the big game publishers.”

Indie game developers on PC face the same problem. Even with distribution platforms like Steam, how do indie developers compete with major game developers and publishers? One phenomenon that has taken indie gaming by storm are the indie game bundles. Pioneered by Humble Bundle, indie game bundles give you a selection of indie games and let you pay what you want. Initially, these indie bundles were available only on PC, and on PC distribution platforms like Desura and Steam. However, more recently, some of these bundles have also made appearances on Android.

Indie game bundles help solve the problems highlighted by the previously mentioned blog post: competition and discovery. By putting together several indie games and letting users pay what they want, indie game bundles can compete with bigger game developers and publishers on value and quality. Highlighting several indie game titles in each bundle also helps users discover new games and developers they may not have noticed. With the spread of indie game bundles to Android, developers can take advantage of the huge PC gaming base and introduce PC gamers to their Android titles, helping them gain notoriety as indie Android developers. With the latest round of indie Android bundles, I believe indie game developers have found a venue to compete with more prominent developers, a venue which has already proven successful on PC.

To date, both Indie Gala and Humble Bundle have released Android bundles. Indie Gala has released two Indie Gala Mobile bundles, while Humble Bundle has released three Humble Bundles for Android, and Humble Bundle for Android 3 is currently active. I have bought all five bundles, and the selection of games are always of the highest quality. The bundle that interests me most at the moment ins the Humble Bundle for Android, and it’s not for the selection of games.

Humble Bundle has been testing a beta version of its Humble Bundle app for Android. You can download the Humble Bundle app if you have purchased a bundle by going to the page for your bundle and clicking “Try the Humble Bundle Android app (beta)”. In earlier releases, the Humble Bundle Android app required you to validate it through the Humble Bundle website. The app gave you a verification code, you entered that code in the Humble Bundle page for an Android bundle, and the app would be verified and allow you to download .apk’s for your games. However, in Humble Bundle for Android 3, a significant release that was not noticed by most mobile and gaming blogs was an update to the Humble Bundle Android app.

The latest update to the Humble Bundle Android app features the ability to link your Humble Bundle account. On the Humble Bundle website, you can create a Humble Bundle account, which will let you purchase bundles more conveniently and organizes all the bundles you have ever purchased on a single page for convenient access. This convenience has also extended to the Humble Bundle Android app. Once you have linked your Humble Bundle account, all your Humble Bundle for Android games will be available to download directly from the app. The latest update has also added a download manager to the app, so you can download, install, and launch games all directly from the app. This makes it MUCH more convenient to buy Humble Bundles. Similar to how you can activate all your Humble Bundle games on Steam with one code (two for the beat the average bonuses), now you can download all your Humble Bundle games on Android with one login. Since you don’t download these games from Google Play, the Humble Bundle Android app will also notify you whenever an update is available to any of your bundle games.

With the latest update to the Humble Bundle Android app, I believe Humble Bundle has positioned itself to become one of the premiere indie game discovery tools on Android. The only thing missing right now is allowing you to buy bundles directly from the app. With that feature, it will turn into a mini-app store, like the Amazon App Store on non-Kindle Fire devices, but exclusively for indie games. I have spoken to an Indie Gala representative, and they have also indicated they have their own Android app in development to distribute Indie Gala Mobile bundles. With Humble Bundle and Indie Gala blazing the way, you can be sure other indie bundles like Indie Royale will quickly follow suit. The rise of Android indie bundles will serve to provide a great boost to indie gaming on Android, solving discovery problems that Google has been unable to solve on Google Play and giving indie game developers a real chance to compete on Android. The rise of Android indie bundles promises to be a great development to save indie game development on an increasingly competitive Android gaming market, and to continue delivering high quality games to our phones and tablets.

  • Taylor Wimberly

    Nice topic of discussion. With the countless Android blogs out there, I don’t think indie devs have a hard time getting discovered and promoted. If someone produces a quality title, then the sites will write about it, the early adopters will install it and they will share it with their friends.

  • Himmat Singh.

    While I agree life is tough for indie devs, but as Taylor mentions, if anyone creates a game of note, word will spread quickly through the blogs and social media. However, this only applies for populist games, and not those targeted at a niche audience.

    • rsanchez1

      I agree that if anyone creates a game of note, word will get out. However, by grouping their games in bundles, I believe indie developers stand a better chance of getting noticed, strength in numbers. A good number of games I’ve seen in PC bundles, I haven’t seen mentioned on blogs except when the blog is covering the bundle. I’m seeing much the same thing with Android bundles. Bundles give indie devs targeting a niche audience a great opportunity to get noticed and get the attention of their target audience.

  • theviper21

    I think bundles are OK, but most of the time I’m not apt to buy them unless most of the games in the bundle look interesting. I think the best way to promote an indie game is to be a part of a community and let people play your game for free to get good feedback. If people really like it, they’ll tell their friends about it and it will spread, then maybe eventually you can put a small price on it.

    Bottom line is, unless you’re a recognizable brand or your game has good press/a good following, people probably aren’t going to want to pay for your game. If you set it out there for free and release it to people who can give you good feedback, you improve it and people start to like it, you’ll get word of mouth and eventually you can start charging.

    • rsanchez1

      The bundles give developers more security than “eventually you can put a small price on it”. Additionally, the bundles are pay-what-you-want, and if you really want, you can put such a small price on it that you can essentially get it for free. One penny is certainly not going to break the bank. You pay more to get more out of the bundle, for example Humble Bundle requires a minimum $1 for Steam keys and each bundle has a “beat the average” bonus, but you can still get as much value as you want from a bundle.

      Bundles are a solution to the unrecognizable brand problem. People may be unwilling to pay for YOUR game, but like you said, you will buy the bundle if the other games look interesting. People will pay for the other games, then they will take a look at your game because they already have access to it anyway. The bundles guarantee more obscure indie developers some exposure, and with that exposure they can get the word-of-mouth advertising that would have been difficult to get otherwise, which would lead to other people buying the game full price on Google Play with recommendations from their friends.

  • rewagner

    My son is trying to become a game programmer…will have o havhave him read this.

  • Guitaraholic

    I think the bundles are an amazing idea for a developer to get there name out there – the issue I do have however with the likes of the humble indie bundles is the get 10 games idea – when 5 of them are from the previous bundle…..

    …. I’m hoping the likes of the Ouya console will bring a new type of game to the android platform – bigger and better games…. more arcade or turn based multiplayer games.

    I’m really looking forward to some old classic type games models like older Zelda style games or bigger and better side scroller platformers ala Mario / Sonic!

    You never know – maybe Android consoles could be the start of something great :)