The highly anticipated Middle Earth: Shadow of War has been under some fire recently over the game’s microtransactions. During some early gameplay videos and a post via WB Game’s community forum, the developers showed off how players will be able to purchase items, such as loot boxes, chests and boosts, to speed up their in-game progress and earn rewards. Despite the developers reassurance that anything purchased in The Market could also be earned for free just by playing the game, their in-game loot system was received with a significant amount of negative feedback.
For many, the term “microtransactions” is still synonymous with “pay-to-win,” and rightfully so. Microtransactions got their claim-to-fame in the freemium gaming industry where many games have been designed from the ground up to blend players’ skills and progress with how much money they spend. This type of game design, especially in competitive games, usually results in an experience of “the more you spend, the faster your progress and the better your performance.”
At EGX 2017 Eurogamer’s Tom Philips had a chance to sit down with design director, Bob Roberts, to discuss the implementation of Shadow of War’s microtransactions. Tom first asked how they maintained the game’s overall balance during development, specifically for people who won’t be spending any money in The Market. To achieve that Bob said that “…We kept all of the loot boxes and the economy of real world money turned off in playtesting so we know we are balancing around an experience which is rewarding without any of that stuff.” If this is true, than it should be easy for anyone to ignore The Market and simply enjoy the game without spending a nickel beyond the initial $60 price tag.
But if these microtransactions aren’t needed to get the full experience out of the game, not to mention they heighten the risk of upsetting the balance, why risk putting them in there at all? Well, apparently it has more to do than just the potential of making a lot of money. At least according to Bob.
It’s there, from my perspective, for people who are protective of their spare time and scared when a massive game comes along that they’re not getting to see the full experience…It’s the same design philosophy as us adding in difficulty modes. So we now have Easy mode, and we’ve added Hard mode at the other end of the spectrum.
This is the most interesting, and expensive, “easy mode” I’ve ever seen. Either way, Bob is adamant that the “initial purchase price is more than worth it.”
Let me know your thoughts on Shadow of War and its microtransactions in the comments below.