The real-money microtransactions in Middle-earth: Shadow of War that soured the experience for many players — and helped fuel the controversy surrounding loot boxes in full-priced video games — are going away. Developer Monolith Productions announced this week that it will phase out the option to buy in-game currency and the ability to gain Orc followers via War Chests.
In a statement posted to the game’s website, Monolith said that the ability to spend money to buy Orcs “risked undermining the heart of our game, the Nemesis System.”
“The core promise of the Nemesis System is the ability to build relationships with your personal allies and enemies in a dynamic open world,” Monolith said. “While purchasing Orcs in the Market is more immediate and provides additional player options, we have come to realize that providing this choice risked undermining the heart of our game, the Nemesis System. It allows you to miss out on the awesome player stories you would have otherwise created, and it compromises those same stories even if you don’t buy anything. 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.”
Monolith went on to say that it will “fully restore the core promise of the Nemesis System” by removing the option to purchase in-game gold and War Chests. The option to buy gold will come to an end on May 8. Players who have purchased gold will need to use it by July 17, when Monolith plans to permanently remove gold, War Chests and the in-game Market.
“Additionally, we’ll be updating the Shadow Wars section of the campaign, where players defend their fortresses against Sauron’s repeated counter-attacks,” Monolith said. “This portion of the game will be improved with new narrative elements and streamlined for a more cohesive experience. For players who choose to continue with these on-going fortress defense missions, the Endless Siege update released last November will still be available. We’ll also be incorporating many other gameplay improvements that will be detailed in future build notes, including Nemesis System updates, new player skins, skill tree additions, gear system upgrades and progression updates, just to name a few that we’re excited about.”
More details about the forthcoming change are available in an FAQ published by Monolith.
When Middle-earth: Shadow of War was released in 2017, we criticized its use of microtransactions, saying they felt like a unwelcome alternative to grinding end-game content.
When you run out of in-game money, you have two choices: Make a huge time investment by hunting down orcs in your game world and earning chests via vendetta missions, or spend some real money to get the more powerful orcs you need now. Does the game ever force you to spend money? No. I’m sure you can get to the end of Shadow Wars without spending a dime, as long as you’re patient and persistent. But locking progress through this mode (and, again, toward the game’s secondary ending) behind either spending more money or doing tons of tedious busywork feels at least greedy if not predatory.
Middle-earth: Shadow of War’s updates to the in-game economy and its Shadow Wars feature will be free, Monolith said.