Shadow of War Chests

Little over a week ago I wrote a post in which I praised Shadow of War, a yet unreleased game. I praised the developer, Monolith, for how transparent it was in showing actual game footage, how it didn’t try to deceive the prospective buyer. I found this to be a breath of fresh air in an industry that relies on pre-rendered trailers and bullshots to fuel the hype machine.

And then I saw this (You may want to translate it)

Within hours, the community was in uproar. It seemed as though Monolith’s transparency came not from a desire to be consumer friendly, but from the possession of giant brass balls.

The microtransactions follow typical freemium wisdom- a soft currency, which can be earned normally through gameplay, and a hard currency, which can only be bough with real money. The actual rewards come in the form of chests, some of which can be bought with the soft currency, mirian,while the highest tier can only be purchased with the hard currency, gold.

Warner Bros immediately stuck a disclaimer on it, saying that no content is actually gated by gold, and that it’s entirely possible to play the game normally. And to be frank, that’s bullshit. Freemium games never have content ‘gated’ by their hard currencies, and it’s always theoretically possible to play the game to the end without paying a dime.

Do I sound bitter? Because I’m bitter.

The catch is that the process of playing for free requires either herculean quantities of grinding or waiting, possibly both. This is a very deliberate design, one which hooks you in with fast progression at the beginning that slows down over time, until you may be addicted and free progression is too slow or tedious, prompting you to spend money.

This also happens in retail priced games with microtransactions. One of the best examples is Dead Space 3, which ‘allowed’ you to pay for parts with which to upgrade your weapons, which could also be done simply by playing the game. The unspoken fine print was that, in order to get those same parts without paying, you needed to grind. And grind. And grind.

Warner Bros approved

These microtransactions allowed you to effectively skip content, and people, no matter how busy, aren’t likely to pay extra to not play the game. How then, do you get the player to do just that? By making some of the content as repetitive and boring as possible. This is how freemium works. It’s not a secret. It’s not even bad business. This is what developers need to do in order to profit from a product that is free to purchase.

Shadow of War is not freemium. It doesn’t let you play for free at the start and ask for money later. You pay full retail price for it to start, and then it shakes you down for more.

There are also people defending this practice by parroting the claim that nothing is actually gated. As I just explained, that is misleading, since it is all but guaranteed that Monolith has changed the game’s pacing and structure in order to make microtransactions appealing, which is to say, making it worse. If you believe that the game will be fully enjoyable without paying extra, I have to seriously question your intelligence.

To be fair, this decision is most likely pressure from Warner Bros, not Monolith’s idea of a good addition. Furthermore, I stand by the claims I made in my first post. But in the light of new evidence, it becomes necessary to reevaluate my conclusions. I was fully prepared to buy SoW on day one, something I have never done. I was on standby to sing its praises as loudly as I could.

So take this from a professed fanboy. Don’t buy Shadow of War on release. Wait for a sale. A big one. And whatever you do, don’t pay for those microtransactions. Money is the only carrot that motivates this kind of behavior, so it must also be the stick with which to beat the behavior out of publishers.