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Is Humble Bundle DRM free? Mostly Yes for Indies, It‘s Complicated for Major Publishers

Wondering if you‘ll actually "own" the games you buy from Humble Bundle? I‘ve got you covered.

As a fellow gamer and bundle buyer, I know it can be confusing trying to figure out which Humble games are DRM-free. So I‘ll provide all the details in this detailed guide to answer: Is Humble Bundle DRM-free?

What is Humble Bundle?

For anyone unfamiliar, Humble Bundle is a pay-what-you-want store for digital games. Founded in 2010, they pioneered the bundle model where you set your own price for a collection of games.

Here‘s a quick rundown of how it works:

  • Pay what you want for curated bundles of 5-10 games
  • Beat average price to unlock bonus game content
  • Choose how to allocate bundle proceeds:
    • Game developers
    • Charity (Electronic Frontier Foundation, charity:water, etc)
    • Humble Bundle operating costs
  • Bundles feature indie games to big-name publishers
  • Monthly Choice plan offers monthly mystery game reveals

To date, Humble Bundle customers have contributed over $200 million to charity! So it feels good buying game bundles knowing you support charities and indie developers.

What is DRM and Why Does it Matter?

When you buy games digitally, you don‘t actually own them in the traditional sense. Instead, you‘re buying a license to access and play the game files under certain restrictions. This is where DRM comes in.

DRM (digital rights management) refers to various technologies companies use to control how you access and copy digital content like games, music, and video.

For PC games, that means DRM enforces restrictions like:

  • Requiring an internet connection and account login to play
  • Limiting game installations or hardware changes
  • Preventing modding or editing of game files
  • Revoking access to purchased games if you break terms of use

DRM gives publishers control over their games. But for us gamers, DRM can be annoying:

  • Can‘t play games offline or lend to friends
  • Purchased games tied to a single store account
  • Forced to use multiple publisher clients just to play games you "own"

That‘s why DRM-free games are so appealing.

The Benefits of DRM-Free Games

With DRM-free games, you actually own the game files and can:

  • Play anytime, anywhere, without internet connectivity
  • Install on multiple devices without re-authentication
  • Keep games indefinitely; no reliance on publisher servers
  • Modify, edit, and mod game files without restriction
  • Resell, trade, share purchased game copies freely

Plus DRM-free games remove performance overhead from DRM software, meaning potential fps boosts!

As you can see, DRM-free gives control back to us players. No wonder it‘s popular among gamers.

What About GOG?

When discussing DRM-free PC games, GOG (Good Old Games) deserves a mention. GOG exclusively sells DRM-free classic and contemporary games.

Some key facts about GOG:

  • 100% DRM-free mandate – Entire catalog is DRM-free without exception
  • Optional client – GOG Galaxy client is optional; games don‘t require it
  • Support for old games – Emphasis on old titles, classics, and retro games
  • Full mod support – All GOG games can be modded without restriction
  • Direct downloads – Games sold as standalone installers, not tied to client

So if you absolutely want DRM-free assurance, GOG is the go-to choice. But read on to see how Humble Bundle compares.

How Does Humble Bundle Approach DRM?

Now that you understand the incentives around DRM, let‘s get into Humble Bundle‘s specific DRM policies and how they shape your purchasing decisions.

Here are the key takeaways:

  • Many but not all Humble Bundles allow DRM-free game downloads
  • DRM status is determined on a per-game basis, not the whole bundle
  • Individual game pages indicate if DRM-free options are available before you buy
  • Monthly Choice bundles contain a mix of DRM-free and DRM-protected games
  • Publisher-specific bundles use that publisher‘s DRM (ex: EA uses Origin)

What does this mean in practice? You have to check each game in a bundle for DRM details before purchasing. It takes a bit more work, but doing your DRM due diligence pays off.

How Major Publishers Handle DRM in Humble Bundles

Whether a Humble Bundle game includes DRM often depends on the publisher. Let‘s look at some of the big players:

PublisherDRM Approach
Electronic ArtsUses Origin DRM on all games
UbisoftUplay DRM required to install and play
Activision BlizzardGames require launcher
CapcomNo DRM on many bundle games
SEGAVaries by game, Sonic games are DRM-free
Square EnixOften provides DRM-free options
Devolver DigitalTypically provides DRM-free versions

See the pattern? Big publishers like EA and Ubisoft stick to their proprietary DRM. But many mid-size publishers contribute DRM-free versions to Humble Bundles.

According to Humble Bundle, their top DRM-free publishers in 2020 were:

  • Devolver Digital
  • Paradox Interactive
  • tinyBuild
  • Curve Digital

So bundles from these indie-friendly publishers are a safer DRM-free bet. Of course, still check individual games to be sure.

Evaluating DRM for Individual Games

Let‘s walk through how to check if a game will be DRM-free before buying a Humble Bundle.

When browsing a bundle, click into each game‘s detail page. Scroll down to the Platforms section:

Humble Game Platform DRM Details

This shows:

  • Which platforms are supported (Windows, Mac, Linux)
  • Any DRM restrictions by platform
  • Clear "DRM-free" messaging if available

Doing this quick check for every game in your bundle prevents any DRM surprises later.

How Other Major Retailers Compare on DRM-Free

To put Humble Bundle‘s DRM-free options into context, here‘s a breakdown of other major PC game retailers:

StoreDRM-Free SelectionNotes
Humble BundleModerateMany bundles DRM-free but not all games
SteamMinimalFew DRM-free games, Steam DRM prevalent
Epic Games StoreMinimalFree weekly games are DRM-free
GOGEntire catalog100% DRM-free mandate

Besides GOG‘s uncompromising stance, Humble emerges as a relatively DRM-free-friendly choice among major players.

Perspectives on DRM in Games

Gamers, developers, and publishers have strong opinions on DRM in both directions:

Pro-DRM arguments:

  • Protects early sales from piracy
  • Needed for viable business model to profit
  • Lets publishers control distribution
  • Required for multiplayer integrity, anti-cheat

Anti-DRM viewpoints:

  • Can make purchased games unplayable offline
  • Limits consumer ownership rights
  • Adds performance overhead
  • Forces use of publisher clients to play

There are good faith points on both sides. But DRM-free unambiguously hands control back to us players.

Tips for Buying DRM-Free Games from Humble Bundle

If you‘re looking to maximize DRM-free purchases from Humble, here are my tips:

  • Always check individual game pages for DRM details
  • For Monthly Choice, check when games are revealed
  • Avoid publisher bundles from EA, Ubisoft, Activision
  • Prioritize bundles from Devolver Digital, Paradox, tinyBuild
  • Search "DRM-free" tag in Humble store
  • Contact Humble support with DRM questions pre-purchase

Following this advice will help stack your library with DRM-free gems.

The Verdict: Thoughtfully Curated DRM-Free Selection

While not as ideologically hardcore as GOG, Humble Bundle offers a thoughtfully curated selection of DRM-free game options. Evaluating bundles upfront and choosing your publishers wisely gives you significant control over DRM.

For indie games, Humble knocks it out of the park on DRM-free. But major publishers often bring their proprietary DRM along, requiring extra vigilance. All said, I‘m a big advocate of Humble Bundle for the choice it provides gamers, charity support, and outstanding deals. With a bit of research before purchasing, you can amass quite a DRM-free backlog from Humble.

So is Humble Bundle DRM-free? Sometimes yes, sometimes it‘s complicated. But with the right bundles and a little effort, your Humble library can be mostly DRM-free. Game on!



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.