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Humble subscription service is dumping Mac, Linux access in 18 days

Mac, Linux nostalgia will soon be a thing for Humble Choice subscribers.
Enlarge / Mac, Linux nostalgia will soon be a thing for Humble Choice subscribers.

Humble, the bundle-centric games retailer that launched with expansive Mac and Linux support in 2010, will soon shift a major component of its business to Windows-only gaming.

The retailer’s monthly subscription service, Humble Choice, previously offered a number of price tiers; the more you paid, the more new games you could claim in a given month. Starting February 1, Humble Choice will include less choice, as it will only offer a single $12/month tier, complete with a few new game giveaways per month and ongoing access to two collections of games: Humble’s existing “Trove” collection of classic games, and a brand-new “Humble Games Collection” of more modern titles.

Launcher cut-off: February 1, 2022

But this shift in subscription strategy comes with a new, unfortunate requirement: an entirely new launcher app, which must be used to access and download Humble Trove and Humble Games Collection games going forward. Worse, this app will be Windows-only. Current subscribers have been given an abrupt countdown warning (as spotted by NeoWin). Those subscribers have until January 31 to use the existing website interface to download DRM-free copies of any games’ Mac or Linux versions. Starting February 1, subscription-specific downloads will be taken off the site, and Mac and Linux versions in particular will disappear altogether.

Interestingly, the current Trove library consists of 79 games, but Humble says that the Trove collection will include “50+ games” starting February 1. This week’s warning to Humble’s Mac and Linux subscribers notes that “many” of the current Trove games will appear on the Humble Launcher, which is likely a nice way of saying that some of the existing games will not—perhaps around 20 or so, based on the aforementioned numbers.

Despite these changes, Trove’s selection of games will remain DRM-free. FAQs about the Humble Launcher suggest that subscribers can download Trove files and continue accessing them in DRM-free fashion, no Humble Launcher or ongoing subscription required. The same promise has not been made for the more modern game collection found in the new Humble Games Collection.

Humble has not announced further changes to its existing business model, which largely revolves around Steam keys that Humble either includes in Humble Choice, sells a la carte, or bundles in pay-what-you-want collections. In the latter case, the more you pay for a given bundle, the more games are included, so long as your payment amount exceeds a certain threshold. A spot check of existing Humble accounts held by Ars Technica staffers still includes web download options for older bundles’ DRM-free downloads, including Mac and Linux versions. These options, however, have become scarcer in recent years’ bundles, with the significant exception of nongame sales like PDF downloads of books and comics.

But the shift toward a dedicated launcher, and its loud positioning as the sole way to access certain subscription options, suggests that Humble is at least positioning itself to take more PC games out of the existing Steam-linked ecosystem, if not planning to do so outright. [Update, 2:55 p.m. ETA recent FAQ indicates that Humble Choice’s biggest existing perk will persist to some extent: “a selection of hand-picked games redeemable via a key for select platforms, when available (Steam, Epic, Origin, GOG, etc.).” That language gives Humble wiggle room to make future Humble Choice games exclusive to the Humble Launcher, instead of arriving as redemption codes to be used at other popular storefronts. As of press time, the company has not clarified how likely Humble Choice codes for stores like Steam will be skipped in favor of Humble Launcher exclusives.]

“I’m not in a position to say f— it to a large community of people who want to support us.”

The Humble storefront’s 2010 kickoff was paired with indie-centric bundles, along with advertising about its support for non-Windows versions of games. Humble co-founder Jeffrey Rosen made a point of breaking down stats for original Humble Bundle purchases on an OS level—and made waves by pointing out how much more money Linux and Mac buyers were willing to spend on the earliest bundles’ charity-specific costs than Windows buyers. This was also an era in which Humble participants pledged to make their games open source, should certain money thresholds be met.

Rosen, who remains on Humble’s advisory board, was vocal about MacOS and Linux support as an indie game dev when blogging about production in 2008, telling fans:

If you’re not supporting Linux and Mac OS X from a philosophical standpoint or for the fans, at least do it for the money. If you don’t support non-Windows platforms, you’re leaving a lot of cash on the table. I don’t know about you, but I’m not in a position to just say f— it to a large community of people who want to support us.

Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.

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