Warner Bros. will be removing microtransactions from Middle-Earth: Shadow of War in the July Update. The news comes from an official post on the Shadow of War community forums. They will remove the ability to purchase Gold on May 8. and permanently remove Gold, War Chests and the Market on July 17. Any unused Gold after July 17 will be converted into in-game items. They state that this is “in order to fully restore the core promise of the Nemesis System”. While microtransactions are the focus of the update, there are additional changes coming. Warner Bros. are going to streamline the Shadow Wars section of the campaign. They also mention gameplay improvements such as Nemesis System updates, new player skins, skill tree additions, gear system upgrades and progression updates. The update is free for all Shadow of War owners.
How will this impact the game?
The controversy surrounding microtransactions in Shadow of War are within the Shadow Wars endgame portion. The campaign plays out like any normal game, until players reach the Shadow Wars. After completing the Bright Lord mission, players need to defend their fortresses from Sauron’s forces. The controversy lies in the sudden difficulty spike in the endgame. Players are highly unlikely to finish the campaign with gear and orcs high enough level to complete this section. As a result, the player is forced to grind away for the games’ real ending. Kotaku compared it to “the equivalent of doing the bare minimum in a JRPG and then being surprised that the final boss kicks your arse.”
However, the game offers all this loot through microtransactions, allowing players to skip the grind. The problem lies in the game coming to a grinding halt in order to coerce players into paying extra. Warner Bros. seem to understand the issue, stating “providing this choice risked undermining the heart of our game”. As a result, they are not only removing the microtransactions but fixing the endgame grind. They state they will improve Shadow Wars “with new narrative elements and streamlined for a more cohesive experience”. Hopefully this means the Shadow Wars will be more indicative of the campaign and the player’s progression.
What will this mean for lootboxes?
While Warner Bros. is listening to feedback and reacting appropriately to the lootbox controversy, it’s hard to say if this will become a common trend. In February, Gamers Classified reported on the unprecedented revenue produced from microtransactions. With such huge profits, companies have a genuine economic incentive to implement microtransactions. As a result it is unlikely large, service based games like Overwatch, CounterStrike or mobile games will remove microtransactions. However, in the case of Shadow of War, the profit wasn’t worth the controversy.
It is likely that Shadow of War will set an example, not for current games to remove lootboxes, but for developing games to not implement them in the first place. The reason critics and gamers condemned Warner Bros. was because of how crucial microtransactions were to the core experience. They weren’t cosmetic items or extra playtime/lives in a free-to-play game, but a means to skip to endgame content. Furthermore, the forced implementation of microtransactions resulted in a diminished experience for those who didn’t want to pay. Shoehorning in a difficulty spike during development to force players to either grind or pay significantly hurt Shadow of War. This type of dubious and shady corporate behaviour takes away from the enjoyment of a game. Clearly the industry didn’t accept this behaviour, and now that Warner Bros. have admitted their wrong, it is a clear lesson for other developers.
What do you think about the new update? Is it too little too late for a game for a 6 month old game? Do you think other companies will take note and follow suit? Let us know in the comments below.