To give you some idea of how indie Wolfire games are, the rabbit-based kung fu game they're making is not the first rabbit-based kung fu game they've made. It's called Overgrowth , and it looks great, but it probably won't change the indie scene forever. Their other project has already done that.
They launched the first Humble Indie Bundle last year, to enormous success: it's just a bunch of great indie games, you pay what you want for them, and a cut of the money goes to charity. At first it doesn't exactly sound like commercial genius – people generally pay about $5 for games worth at least $20 – but the good cause, slick presentation and friendly attitude created a perfect storm of goodwill.
These games have no DRM, they all work on Windows, Linux and Mac, and if you have any trouble with them the organisers offer quick, friendly and efficient support. The result: the bundles have now taken a total of more than $10 million in under two years.
But one of the main reasons these guys are our community heroes this year is what they've done with that success: they've used it as a platform to launch (or relaunch) a range of great indie games that deserve a broader audience. Four times this year, they've released new bundles that showcase a particular game or developer: Trine, Frozen Synapse, Voxatron, and most recently Introversion's whole catalogue. Each one has taken more than $700,000, a vast success for games that genuinely deserve it.
The latest, Humble Indie Bundle 4, launched on December 13th and made $500,000 within its first few hours. The final total will be divided between the organisers, at least seven game developers, and two charities. But the sheer popularity of these bundles, the latest in particular, makes each of those shares substantial. In many cases, the bundles guarantee that a lot of great indie developers are able to continue making new games for us to enjoy.
The Humble phenomenon is the latest stage of an ongoing revolution in indie games. First, tools like Game Maker, Unity and a free version of the Unreal engine made it dramatically easier for anyone to make a game with no startup cash. Then Steam led a charge for digital distribution that left the indie-friendly platform the dominant player in PC gaming. Now, small developers have a new channel to get enormous exposure and sales for great games, without either a marketing budget or the need for a mainstream publisher.
It's a huge catalyst for getting great and interesting games to the populace at large, and it's making PC gaming better for everyone.
Highly recommended: DJ Wheat and Tastosis.