Middle-Earth: Shadow of War has decided to completely ditch the predatory microtransaction system that was incorporated into the game. This is another victory for every gamer in existence as nobody likes dumb microtransaction systems. It’s – hopefully – another sign that the gaming industry is steering away from their obsession with loot boxes after loot boxes came under heavy criticism in 2017. Shadow of War was arguably one of the worst offenders as you were unable to complete the game without weeks of grinding or spending money in their in-game store.
Shadow of War together with Star Wars: Battlefront 2 are arguably the games that caused a complete backlash on the microtransaction and loot box system. Before these two games, loot boxes were mainly used to unlock cosmetic content which most players were alright with. However, with these releases, developers started locking away content behind a paywall, despite paying $60 to purchase the game in the first place.
As to why loot boxes were pulled from Shadow of War, developer Monolith Production argues that it’s for the sake of immersion as loot boxes break the immersion that players have in the game. However, the real reason probably has to do with the sales numbers of the game. According to leaked Steam data, Shadow of War sold an estimated 952,284 copies on PC, which is astonishingly small compared to the estimated 4,468,234 sales of Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor. It’s obvious that gamers weren’t interested in purchasing a game that was so disrespectful towards the player.
If 2017 was the year of loot boxes than this is the year where every big game developer is trying to save what little reputation they have left. They are literally avoiding loot boxes like the plague. EA has already said that it will not include loot boxes in their two upcoming shooters Battlefield V and Anthem. With removing microtransaction from Shadow of War we can see that Warner Bros is also trying to avoid damaging their reputation even further. However, the idea of ‘games as a service’ probably won’t go away soon now that the big game developers have had a taste of all the profits that can be made. Expect games to implement other ways to prey on your money in the future.