Middle Earth: Shadow of War, one of the titles that inspired the recent backlash to loot box and microtransaction systems within videogames, seems to be getting the picture finally. Publisher Warner Bros. announced late Monday that the game will eliminate all microtransactions from the game later this year.
Warner Bros. cited the ability of the game’s real-money currency, Gold, and blind box-riddled Market to undercut the storytelling and world-building ability of its unique and highly touted Nemesis system as the catalyst for the decision:
The core promise of the Nemesis System is the ability to build relationships with your personal allies and enemies in a dynamic open world. While purchasing Orcs in the Market is more immediate and provides additional player options, we have come to realize that providing this choice risked undermining the heart of our game, the Nemesis System. It allows you to miss out on the awesome player stories you would have otherwise created, and it compromises those same stories even if you don’t buy anything.
Shadow of War found itself at the center of the loot box controversy, alongside Star Wars: Battlefront II, late last year when it was revealed that the game’s War Chests allowed players to purchase procedurally generated legendary Orcs. The controversy was only strengthened when an Orc created in tribute to a Monolith employee that died during the game’s development was initially announced as paid DLC, a move that Warner Bros. quickly walked back. Battlefront II, which released in Nov. 2017, has already rolled out a new progression system that retooled its intrusive loot box system. In comparison, Shadow of War, which launched in Sept. 2017, will not remove the Gold currency and Market until July 17, roughly ten months after its release. Warner Bros. will discontinue selling Gold currency on May 8.
It might not be the most timely response, but the publisher seems to be self-critical of the microtransaction system’s impact. “Simply being aware that they are available for purchase reduces the immersion in the world and takes away from the challenge of building your personal army and your fortresses,” said the company.
They aren’t wrong. Much of the fun in the game derives from the rivalries and battles forged through the Nemesis system. That becomes even more present when compared with the lackluster story of both Shadow of War and its predecessor, Shadow of Mordor. It’s that reason, among others, that has players questioning why WB is deciding to fix its system now and wondering if this decision will inform microtransaction implementation in future products. It is hard to fervently believe this decision will draw players back to a title that had significant pacing and grind issues beyond what will be corrected in July. It is a good first step, though.
Players that have any Gold when the system is removed will have that currency converted to in-game items, while loot chests will remain in the game but will not be available for purchase with real-life money.