Robert Bowling

Robert Bowling

Vice President at Humble Bundle

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON October 27, 2015

Discussion

Robert Bowling
Robert Bowling@fourzerotwo · Founder of GamePump
Hello - I'm Robert. Currently I'm designing and launching new products as Vice President, Creative Director of Humble Bundle, my most recent launch was the Humble Monthly subscription service which delivers highly curated games to your inbox every single month for a fixed price. Humble has recently just passed $65 million raised for charity to date. Previously I was focused entirely on game development, having built an independent studio in Los Angeles from zero to fifty five full time developers as well as managing the Call of Duty franchise from Call of Duty 2 through Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3. I'm really excited to have the opportunity to do a live chat on Product Hunt and look forward to answering your questions about what we're working on Humble, the vision for the company moving forward, and anything else you may be curious about.
Haze
Haze@haze2k1 · Indie Kings
@fourzerotwo A lot of people are saying that the quality of the bundles has decreased since Humble Bundle got that venture capital funding, why is that?
Robert Bowling
Robert Bowling@fourzerotwo · Founder of GamePump
@haze2k1 A question of quality is subjective but I think its fair to say the quantity of bundle promotions that we are doing has definitely increased dramatically. This has nothing to do with VC funding and everything to do with customer base growing. We grow our promotions to meet the demand and give more games the opportunity to do promotions. The side effect of doing more promotions is that your BLOCKBUSTER promotions, things like our Humble Indie Bundles and Humble Jumbo Bundles are spread out and you have a lot of more focused and niche promotions in between. I don't think the qualities of these promotions is lessened by their existence, its more about just focusing on more smaller audiences than just promotions that appeal to everyone.
Robert Bowling
Robert Bowling@fourzerotwo · Founder of GamePump
Russ Frushtick
Russ Frushtick@russfrushtick
@fourzerotwo How do you guys combat the idea of devaluation in the indie space? With services like Humble and PS Plus, it seems like it's more and more challenging to get people to pay full price for indie games. Is that a concern for you guys or are you more focused on making sure your users have compelling collections?
Robert Bowling
Robert Bowling@fourzerotwo · Founder of GamePump
@russfrushtick Our focus at Humble is much more about the combat of awareness issues in the indie game space, rather than the price issue. Players will always vote with their wallet, and where we come in and think we may be the most useful is giving games the opportunity to be in front, and in the hands of, as many players as possible. The goal is to keep players coming through the gates which in turn leads to more awareness, higher profile, and then more sales (at discount and full price). A good number of our partners, both indie and AAA have shown us figures that show that our promotions do lead to a good blast radius of full priced sales post-promotion, which is the exact goal of doing anything with us.
Emily Hodgins
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
@fourzerotwo Thanks for joining us today! Did you always know that you wanted to work in this space? How did the journey start for you? Have you had any mentors along the way?
Robert Bowling
Robert Bowling@fourzerotwo · Founder of GamePump
@ems_hodge I've always been interested in working in the independent entertainment space. That started with a record label I founded decades ago, and grew into a music magazine called Substream Music Press where we would only feature indie artists on the cover. The goal was always the same, find ways to get original creations in front of more people. My personal passion for PLAYING games led to taking that goal and combining it with my love of games. My original mentor was Mike Park of Asian Man Records, as he taught me a lot about taking an idea, with nearly no resources, and creating a business out of it that can help other independent creators. Once I got into games, I really credit Vince Zampella for guiding my career in games. He gave me a lot of freedom and a lot of support in tackling things that would have normally been an insurmountable obstacle to take on and to this day continues to be the guy I go to when I have a challenge that needs deep strategy. Both of those mentors have the same thing in common, a relentless fight to do the right thing, even when it hurts.
Emily Hodgins
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
@fourzerotwo what has been your proudest achievement to date?
Robert Bowling
Robert Bowling@fourzerotwo · Founder of GamePump
@ems_hodge Professionally speaking, where we were able to take Call of Duty has been the largest accomplishment. Once you're able to take something from its roots to a place where people are sick of talking about it, you've succeeded. However, most recently at Humble Bundle we just launched the Humble Monthly which was a dream project for me because it served the exact purpose I wanted to accomplish here at Humble. Create a new way to deliver high quality content to players which in turn would allow us to take that and 1) Support Developers 2) Support Charity and 3) hopefully give a new avenue to create original content.
Corley
Corley@corleyh · COO @ Product Hunt
@fourzerotwo What do you see as the biggest near-term opportunity for Humble Bundle?
Robert Bowling
Robert Bowling@fourzerotwo · Founder of GamePump
@corleyh The Humble Monthly was the most recent opportunity, giving us a different kind of promotion that allowed us to bring the best games possible even sooner than we ever could before. Now that we have launched that (with the first content pack unlocking on Nov 6th) I think a good focus for us would be to see how we can build up mobile games the same way we've driven massive sales to PC / MAC / Linux. While we currently do traditional PWYW Mobile Bundles, I think finding an innovative new way to drive mobile awareness and downloads for premium titles that is outside the traditional model would be super valuable to our mobile development partners and I think we have a unique opportunity to do that because of our established relationships and skillsets.
Harry Stebbings
Harry Stebbings@harrystebbings · Podcast Host @ The Twenty Minute VC
@fourzerotwo thanks so much for joining us today. What is our view of the subscription based charging model? Why do you think the industry has transitioned to it? Even microsoft office has it instead of the more traditional one off bundle payment. Would love to hear your thoughts.
Robert Bowling
Robert Bowling@fourzerotwo · Founder of GamePump
@harrystebbings Personally I love it, but I didn't expect to as a customer. A lot of this comes to how I, and I assume other customers consume their media and products now. Nearly everything in my life at this point is subscription based (Netflix, Apple Music, LootCrate, Marvel Collectors Corps, Level Up, and now Humble Monthly). Just in that list alone my movies, music, t-shirts, toys, socks, and now with Humble Monthly GAMES are all coming to me through subscriptions. The reason I think people respond to it is it gives you a chance to constantly rotate out your interests within a specific category. You're always getting new content but under the same umbrella of items you enjoy. More so, it allows you to budget it more easily. Rather than a slippery slope of spending an unknown amount of cash on your hobbies, you can meter it to spend a specific amount of money on something you know you'll love every month. Speaking specifically to why I launched a subscription service at Humble, I wanted a way that was more consistent for developers as well as for the company where we could build a base that would allow us to then leverage that to do some really innovative stuff. For example, without speaking out of school and giving too much away, if we have a solid subscriber base (which we already have the beginnings of with Humble Monthly) that is a really strong foundation to start thinking about funding big initiatives we would have never been able to take on before. Whether thats new platforms to enable our developers to sell more games or original content creation that allows games to exist that would have never been possible before. It really opens up doors.
Sam Houston
Sam Houston@samhouston · Senior Community Manager, Bugcrowd
@fourzerotwo What kind of work do you think HB could do to build a more robust community around Humble Bundle to support the various new products that you guys have launched?
Robert Bowling
Robert Bowling@fourzerotwo · Founder of GamePump
@samhouston That's really interesting because Humble has a fantastic community, but it lives almost ENTIRELY outside of the Humble platform. To date, our community has generated over $66 million dollars for charity. That's insanity if you look it as a big picture, and just now are we looking at how we can really empower that community even further on www.humble.com and not require it to live out on the internet everywhere at once (although that will always exist). At this point, we're looking at ways we can reward our customers on Humble for their loyalty, purchases, and of course charitable causes. We are doing this slowly one feature at a time. We just launched "Choose Your Own Charity" which allows you to select which charity your bundle money goes to as well as your STORE purchases this. We will be bringing this feature to Humble Monthly. We're also looking at adding features that track and reward fundraising initiatives and repeat participation in fun ways.
aaron layson
aaron layson@alay816 · Ammo packer
@fourzerotwo Will you ever accept paypal for monthly subscriptions?
Robert Bowling
Robert Bowling@fourzerotwo · Founder of GamePump
@alay816 Yes! We've been working very closely with PayPal since the launch of Humble Monthly and the overwhelming feedback from our community and hope to have PayPal integration launched BEFORE the first content drop on November 6th in order to allow PayPal users to buy the first month of content before it hits.
@fourzerotwo Linux users have loved Humble because of your efforts to release cross platform games, but that seems to have diminished a great deal lately. Many bundles have few if any games that run on Linux. Many of us, myself included, would love to have a subscription bundle but right now I have no guarantee that I'll get a single game I can play. Is cross platform support a priority for you?
Robert Bowling
Robert Bowling@fourzerotwo · Founder of GamePump
@_minego The short answer is, Linux is a priority for us. We actually spend a lot of resources and money a year to working with developers on porting their non-Linux games to Linux as well as curating as many Linux supporting titles that already exist as possible. So we're trying to do our best to make as many games possible available to the platform. When it comes to a subscription service which relies entirely on a steady stream of content, it gets more sensitive because even with us porting titles ourselves for our developer partners, we may not be able to commit to having them all the time. That said, our goal is to support Linux whenever possible on our end, even if that means porting it ourselves. However, we also don't want to hold back a really solid promotion if we can't get a Linux build in-time or ever.
@fourzerotwo With that in mind, have you considered trying to do an occasional bundle with more of a focus on cross platform? It seems lately that most bundles have 0-2 games that run on Linux. I'd love to see a bundle with 5 or 6 even if it isn't as frequent. Also, is there anything that the community can do to help with getting these games released for Linux? Testing, or even working on code? I know a lot of Linux developers who are big fans of Humble (myself included).
Robert Bowling
Robert Bowling@fourzerotwo · Founder of GamePump
@_minego We try to port and curate as many Linux games as possible. Community support for that always helps. The #1 thing that fans can do is advocate for Linux support from Day 1 from the developers of their favorite games. So if you see a game that you'd love to play, then be vocalizing that to the developer even before they're even being considered for a Humble promotion. The more devs naturally releasing Linux builds or at least investigating Linux support when they start a conversation with us, the easier it is for us to get them either to let us do it or support it themselves.
Gabriel Lozano
Gabriel Lozano@josuelozanomer · socialmediaworld
@fourzerotwo what specials characteristics do you think that an entrepreneur need ?
Robert Bowling
Robert Bowling@fourzerotwo · Founder of GamePump
@josuelozanomer A high tolerance for pain, an unhealthy endurance to keep going beyond the point that would be recommended, and the ability to trust yourself when all signs point to failure and being okay even when you do infact fail.
@fourzerotwo Why is the subscription Steam for Windows only? I do not have a Steam account because I despise DRM and refuse to buy games embedded with it. It really seems like Humble Bundle built a brand leading customers to believe you stood for DRM-FREE gaming, but now a ridiculous number of bundles require other DRM-laden accounts/clients to play games.
Robert Bowling
Robert Bowling@fourzerotwo · Founder of GamePump
@mrh829 We do believe in DRM-FREE gaming but we also want to be as accessible as possible. Our ultimate goal is to support as many developers and charities as possible. Our preferred route to do that is through pay-what-you-want promotions for DRM-FREE games. We do those with Humble Indie Bundles and Humble Jumbo Bundles as much as possible, but it also means doing other promotions in between there which may or may not afford us the ability to offer DRM-FREE. We decided a long time ago that we'd rather help all developers sell games rather than force our opinions and morals onto all of them. We love it when we can convince developers or partner with developers who share our affinity for DRM-FREE and PWYW promotions and prioritize those over all else when we do.
@fourzerotwo @mrh829 For what it's worth, as a consumer, I'd much rather see a hard line drawn in the sand, because having certain minimum requirements for products before you offer goods for sale builds trust with customers. With Humble, that trust was completely shattered with the release of the first Steam-only bundle. I used to buy bundles that didn't even interest me just to prove that people are willing to pay for DRM-FREE content, because customers were led to believe that's what the Humble Bundle name stood for, while most of the publishing world wants to believe that DRM-FREE only means piracy. Now, I have to hunt and peck around to make sure everything is safe first, which only wastes time and adds frustration to the buying process, and honestly, this tends to bring me to zero out the "humble tip" when I do make a purchase. There have been quite a number of bundles that I would have bought if they didn't have DRM. If Humble is determined not to drop DRM platforms, I'd like to see an email subscription option to only receive notifications about DRM-FREE promotions.
Robert Bowling
Robert Bowling@fourzerotwo · Founder of GamePump
aaron layson
aaron layson@alay816 · Ammo packer
so any hints to what might be in the first monthly bundle :D?
Robert Bowling
Robert Bowling@fourzerotwo · Founder of GamePump
@alay816 I've actually been secretly teasing the content all month long here: https://twitter.com/humble/statu... While I can't share what the exact titles I will say I'm super stoked for the content to unlock on Nov 6th and pleasantly surprise our founding subscribers with just how large the games they're getting are and the variety of content they're getting. I think month two is going to be insane when people see what we've put together for Month 1 and I seriously can't wait for that moment. Feel free to take some guesses based on that teaser tweet.
@fourzerotwo @alay816 Can you tell us if the first month will have any cross platform games? I'd really like to try it, but I have too many games I can't play in my steam library already.
Robert Bowling
Robert Bowling@fourzerotwo · Founder of GamePump
@_minego The Instant Unlock we released with it, Legend of Grimrock 2 does support Linux and there are other supported titles in the subscription service, we just can't guarantee the number or specifics on which titles will and will not support pre-launch.
@fourzerotwo Your store says that is supported on Windows and Mac only, not Linux. https://www.humblebundle.com/sto...
Jake Crump
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
@fourzerotwo What do you see as the next step for Humble? Any plans to offer console bundles or possibly iOS bundles in the future?
Robert Bowling
Robert Bowling@fourzerotwo · Founder of GamePump
@jakecrump Definitely on the console bundles. I was proud to have done our first console bundle with Nintendo earlier this year and better yet with indie titles on Nintendo platforms. We hope to continue that relationship while also looking at how to best deliver content to other console communities. The more choice and accessibility we can give our players and our developer partners the better. iOS would be great although right now I will say our focus has been mainly on Android due to the freedom it gives us. Much like we prefer DRM-FREE PC titles, we have a lot of flexibility in the Android ecosystem and hope to innovate there as fast as possible.
Robert Bowling
Robert Bowling@fourzerotwo · Founder of GamePump
SONTENSE
SONTENSE@sontense · gamer
@fourzerotwo fuck you last stand! :)
Max
Max@_borscht
What about cooperating with gog.com and providing keys for DRM-free games?