Middle Earth: Shadow of War is arguably one of the most anticipated games of the year. What we’ve seen so far has looked like an impressive improvement to the original game, with the ability to build a massive orc army. In the lead up to release it came under fire when it was revealed that microtransactions had been added to the game. These would allow players to purchase loot boxes, orcs and other items to bolster the power of their legion. On its surface it appears that these types of microtransactions in Shadow of War could lead to a pay to win economy in the game, or a game that could see difficulty intentionally increased in certain spots to try and lure players in to buying these items after already putting down their $60 for the game.
Microtransactions in Shadow of War are for people that are protective of their spare time
At EGX ’17, Shadow of War developers sat down with Eurogamer to explain these systems. Bob Roberts of Monolith explains that the balance of the game has not been changed to make people purchase microtransactions in Shadow of War and that players will still have a good time with the game regardless of whether they purchase them or not.
Roberts explains in the interview, “We do a ton of playtesting and make sure it is tuned to a setting where people can enjoy it. We kept all of the loot boxes and the economy of real world money turned off in playtesting so we know we are balancing around an experience which is rewarding without any of that stuff.”
So if the game doesn’t need microtransactions to be fun why did they include them at all? Roberts says that it’s a convenience “for people who are protective of their spare time and scared when a massive game comes along that they’re not getting to see the full experience.” That comment in itself sounds a lot like the design philosophy behind free to play games. You either have the time to “grind” or you don’t.
The topic itself is a slippery slope for game developers and designers to tread, but these types of “convenience” microtransactions have been becoming more and more common in recent years. Most recently, 2K Games has come under fire for their use of virtual currency in NBA 2K18. There is a mode in the game that many people think the progression system has been tuned to push them towards purchasing microtransactions to improve their character in their RPG like experience called MyCareer.
It’s yet to be seen whether Roberts’ statements from the interview will ring true. One thing we are seeing with games that contain these types of microtransactions is that there is a growing swell of people in the gaming community that are voicing their opinions through user reviews or through media outlets. Our review for NBA 2K18 called the systems that include microtransactions “brazen and egregious.” User reviews on Metacritic for NBA 2K18 are largely skewed towards the negative and mostly revolve around this topic. One website included in the review score aggregators gave the game a “protest score” of 3/10.
Hopefully these statements from Roberts do hold up. Middle Earth: Shadow of War is one of the more highly anticipated titles of the year and it would be a shame for it to be ruined by these types of business practices. Middle Earth: Shadow of War is due out on October 10th for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.