Another hollow victory.
Seemingly out of the blue, Monolith Productions has announced their plans to carve loot boxes and microtransactions out of Middle-Earth: Shadow of War. That’s right, they’ve decided after months of stewing over the anger surrounding the use of loot boxes in games like Shadow of War and Star Wars: Battlefront II, that they “have come to realize that providing this choice risked undermining the heart of our game”. The heart being the Nemesis system, which is the series’ staple.
The changes they’re planning on making include the full removal of the loot boxes, with the only option to acquire them after their removal being the late use of one-time use codes. All unspent premium currency will be automatically redeemed for players and converted into Gold Loot Chests. Furthermore, the currency itself will be discontinued, and Monolith will be focusing their efforts on developing new content for Shadow of War. You can find more information in their updated FAQ section.
While I’m happy that Shadow of War‘s asinine loot boxes and microtransactions are being removed from the game, I can’t help but think that this just proves yet again how monetization like this is just a vestigial limb of gaming. After all, if DICE and Electronic Arts can just disable microtransactions in Battlefront II without destroying the experience for players, and Monolith and Warner Brothers can do the same with Shadow of War, what’s the justification for including them in the first place. To me, it just proves that those monetization options were never necessary in the first place, and only served to generate additional income.
It also makes me wonder about the reason for this announcement, given the lack of timeliness to the decision. EA and DICE reacted almost instantly to the backlash surrounding their latest major release, yet WB and Monolith sat on their bad PR for months. I’d surmise that the real reason WB will be allowing this change is because they’ve seen the microtransaction revenue stream start to dry up, and they’re looking for another influx of cash in the form of new game purchases. Assuming I’m right, it’s a bold move. They’ve gotten a nice chunk of change from the original release of the game, on top of the “whales” and megalodons who probably spend hundreds of dollars (or more) to unlock Orcs for the game. Naturally, once that starts to slow down, they’d want to generate some good press to get their name back in the headlines.
And I have to say, it’s an intelligent strategy if that’s what they’re doing. I’m still not willing to go sink some cash into a new copy of Shadow of War though, but only because they tried to fleece their customers so brazenly, only to backtrack long after the issue had faded into obscurity. That isn’t even to mention that their motivations are suspect at best, and while I don’t have proof of any nefarious plans, it would certainly make sense for them to take this course of action given that first week sales for the sequel were lower than the first entry.
Hopefully I’m wrong. Maybe WB and Monolith saw the error of their ways, and have decided to do away with the practice of shoehorning monetization into singleplayer games. Otherwise we may be seeing the emergence of what could be a new trend; preying on customers only to remove the option later to drum up sales.
What’s your take on this news? Shadow of War clearly wasn’t a bad game, so do you think it deserves a second chance? Might this just be a plan to boost sales?
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