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Middle-earth: Shadow of War withdraws controversial memorial DLC

WBIE will donate directly to family of deceased producer instead

Forthog Orcslayer in action.
Forthog Orcslayer in Middle-earth: Shadow of War, launching Oct. 10.
Monolith Games
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Middle-earth: Shadow of War’s Forthog Orc-Slayer DLC will be offered free to everyone, with publisher Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment making a single donation to the family it was meant to assist, the company announced yesterday.

The announcement ends a controversy that had apparently begun with good intentions but which WBIE agreed “was not the best way to achieve our goal” of memorializing executive producer Michael Forgey of Monolith Productions, and raising money to support his wife and children.

Forthog Orcslayer was introduced at the beginning of the month as a tribute to Forgey; WBIE said the character would be sold for $4.99 and that for every purchase made in the U.S., WBIE would donate $3.50 to the family. Forgey died of cancer during development.

The campaign quickly attracted controversy, not least because Middle-earth: Shadow of War already has a lot of DLC, some of it in the form of pay-to-win loot boxes available for microtransaction prices. Making matters worse, while the DLC would be available in every territory where the game launched, only donations would be made from sales in 43 U.S. states and the District of Columbia because of legal obligations.

WBIE insisted that it would take no profit from sales in areas that couldn’t participate in the donation but gamers were skeptical. WBIE also said that “a factually incorrect tweet” from the publisher’s social media team “exacerbated the confusion” by saying that money from the sale of the DLC internationally would not go to the family.

“Our decision not to promote the donation outside the U.S. (even though we intended to donate the money) caused many to question where funds from other territories were going,” WBIE explained. “Answering that direct question itself could have triggered compliance obligations or put us in violation of cause marketing laws in some of the 241 territories in which the content was available.

“We now recognize that tying our donation to sales of the DLC was not the best way to achieve our goal of offering financial support to the family and creating a lasting memorial to Michael Forgey,” WBIE added. “We sincerely apologize to the fans and to the Forgey family for the confusion we created.”

Now the Forthog Orcslayer DLC will be removed from sale and offered for free to all. Anyone who had bought it already (the game launches Oct. 10 but the DLC was offered for pre-order) will receive a refund. WBIE will also make a donation directly to the Forgey family.

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