Shadow Of War Is Now Microtransaction-Free

Middle-earth: Shadow of War came out on 11 October 2017. Two hundred eighty days later, it is now free of all microtransactions. It’s a drastic change and yet another sign that 2017 was a turning point for the video game industry’s brief obsession with loot boxes.

Today, Warner Bros. patched Shadow of War to remove the game’s paid currency, putting an end to a confusing microtransaction system that had been in place since the game launched.

No longer can you spend money on premium currency or on loot boxes that give you a random shot at premium gear. No longer can you buy orcs in the game’s digital marketplace.

The publisher had announced in April that this was happening, but waited until today to make the change. If you did spend money on the game, you’ll now find a message that says something like this:

If you purchased gold in Shadow of War, it will be converted to one-time-use gold loot chests that can give you gear.

This unprecedented move comes nearly a year after Shadow of War became one pressure point of a long and angry debate over additional payments in video games, alongside the controversial Star Wars Battlefront 2, which triggered so much ire that publisher EA pulled all of its microtransactions the night before it launched.

Shortly afterwards, EA made a big pivot. If 2017 was the year of loot boxes, then 2018 is its exact opposite, as the mega-publisher declared that neither of its big upcoming shooters, Battlefield 5 or Anthem, will have any form of randomly-generated microtransactions.

“While purchasing Orcs in the Market is more immediate and provides additional player options, we have come to realise that providing this choice risked undermining the heart of our game, the Nemesis System,” a community representative for developer Monolith Productions wrote on the forums in April.

“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.”

Of course, that was the same argument fans made before Shadow of War came out — the same argument people have been making for as long as microtransactions have existed.

So what changed? What made Monolith and Warner Bros. decide to remove premium currency nearly a year after launch? Was it fan anger? Legal threats? Or something else entirely?

Like most game publishers, Warner Bros. does not share its sales data, but there are a couple of clues out there.

One is that in October 2017, Shadow of War was the top seller on NPD, beating out Assassin’s Creed Origins among other games. In November, Shadow of War fell to 12.

The other clue is that, according to recently leaked Steam data, Shadow of War has sold roughly 952,284 copies on PC, less than Origins (1,030,581) and significantly less than Shadow of Mordor (4,468,234).

Incomplete data can’t paint an accurate picture, but these clues support one hypothesis: Shadow of War sold well at first, then tailed off. Which is exactly what might happen if a much-hyped game was full of microtransactions that left players with a sour taste, encouraging bad word of mouth. “Oh, that game’s cool and all, but it wants me to spend extra money? No thanks.”

By pulling all of the loot boxes from Shadow of War, Warner Bros. is sending a strong signal. That isn’t to say that Warner Bros. is giving up on microtransactions — quite the opposite, in fact.

Like every other big publisher in the games business, Warner Bros. is doubling down on “games as a service” in hopes of generating as much revenue as possible without charging more than $80 for its big-budget games.

In the future, those games will just be a lot more subtle about it.


Comments

    Still reluctant to pick this up. Seems like it gives them the greenlight for exploitative lootboxes, get what you can from those people, then strip it out later and get no net loss of sales.

      Oh, don't worry. There will be people out there who are hardline and won't ever buy it simply because it had it in it. The thing is though, why remove it if it's making money? It was not doing what they wanted, and that's the only reason they got rid of it.

        Or it has done what they wanted and they have milked that cash cow dry
        So now they want to catch the people who didn't buy it because it had those transactions in there

          Still looking at a 75% drop in sales. No matter how much they made from microtransactions, they didn't make up for the loss of more than 3 million sales and all that bad press.
          I'm still not buying it because I don't want to play a game that had its in-game economy broken by the microtransactions, even if they're no longer there. But the whole thing is a huge admission that they flew too close to the sun on this one.

        There is a good chance that loot box style microtransactions will be banned in some jurisdiction at some point, so Monolith probably felt there would be a need to modify the game for those markets at some point soon. At that point, there are two questions:

        1. do you produce a special version for those countries, or make the change globally?

        2. do you simply drop the loot boxes, or convert those microtransactions to a form that is unlikely to be banned (e.g. directly purchasing the items previously distributed in loot boxes).

        Presumably they felt that the microtransactions weren't bringing in enough revenue to be worth the hassle.

      Agree, "Hey we took your money for something that we have now made free. But don't worry we gave you some of our made up currency which costs us nothing anyway"

    Yeah, that's great and all, but they almost fucked it last night.

    The patch went live, and all the Uruks were gone from the Garasin. No one had any of there stuff.

    Monolith tho, in a VERY VERY timely manner, solved the issue. Turns out, the game was pointing at the wrong servers. Rather than poting to the Retail server, it was pointing to the test server, and boy howdy was that a close call for them. lol

    I'm doubting that they addressed the micro-transaction influenced game balance though, you could clearly see the game was weighted in favour of both easily killed orcs on both sides but I felt whenever I had an ally orc go against an enemy, despite any superiority I always found my guy on the ropes without my personal intervention.

    I'm talking egregious mechanical weight to the successes of rival and enemy AI, it always felt like they wanted me to dump money in to refill the orc pools I had worked hard to build up, even the captain I brought over from Shadow of Mordor quickly fell to some cheap gameplay.

    Definitely a heart breaker.

    And now I perform the worlds most unenthusiastic slow clap. When the goal posts are so easy that you just remove excess invasive revenue avenues after sales have dried up you probably should pat yourself on the back.

    I was excited for this but abstained based on the MT’s; kinda feel ‘meh’ about the whole thing even now - doesn’t feel like I missed out on a whole lot from people who bought it...?

    Both it & Battlefront 2 were things I was stoked about but both companies managed to kill the excitement completely - sure my one lack of purchase isn’t enough to sway any publisher, but despite still topping the sales chart it seems enough people perhaps felt similarly that it’s had at least some effect?

      I would still get it if you liked the first one. Its improved a lot on what they did there and the fort stuff is really cool. The 2 expansions are decent, with the second one by adding a new zone to go to, which you can also go to in the main game. Overall, its a really good game, and with all the changes to the way the orcs fight each other now, its a dam great game.

    You still earn a currency and buy boxes.
    You just can't buy that currency, you have to earn it.

    The boxes are still abstracted away from gameplay and obtaining things through them feels a lot worse than meeting an uruk organically in the course of play and bending them to your will or the other gameplay-integrated ways to earn the content of those boxes.

    It's still IMO the worst aspect of the game and it's directly derived from the requirements putting microtransactions in added to the game's design.

    Last edited 18/07/18 11:36 am

    A single player game with micro-transactions to get a technical advantage in-game... it's a really bad sign.

    Deus Ex Mankind Divided single player game is polluted with microtransactions and dead content also, wish they remove all that nonsense from that game and give it for free.

    And they wonder why their IP's die, of cause the CEO's have a cry and say, welp there is no money in this IP anymore, time to move on and ruin another!

    Last edited 18/07/18 6:03 pm

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