Jason Hertz

Associate Opinion Editor

The public outcry surrounding Middle Earth: Shadow of War, and WB Games’ decision to include real money loot boxes in a single-player game mode, is primarily centered around gated end-game content; but I disagree. I think that the decision, and subsequently the primary motivator for this particular developer, is centered on the end-game multiplayer mode. The fourth act relies on having legendary loot box drops in the form of orc soldier to get past the fortress raiding content and unlock the true ending of the game. In that sense, WB Games have gated the ending behind one of two doors: you either buy loot boxes with real world currency for the random chance of getting what you need, or you grind for potentially hundreds of hours to get the same tools to succeed.

Some people are willing to spend money and some are willing to spend time. It may be wrong to gate the true ending of the game behind a grind, but that is sadly nothing new. And, despite the new setting of a single-player mode, loot boxes continue to be a hotly debated topic. But people keep buying the games that utilize this money-making feature, so the market seems to support it. What I find to be important, for consumer rights and peace of mind, is making sure that we understand the truth behind gambling systems in games—and make no mistake, legislation may be behind the times, but this is gambling by ever definition we have—and developer or publisher motivations.

In Shadow of War, the primary purpose for making loot boxes the main way to gain legendary orcs for your strongholds and raids is, well to make money but also, to provide an incentive for competitive players in the ranked mode to continue spending money on a regular basis. In the player versus player online ranked mode, orcs can die permanently. This means that players continuously lose their strongest orcs as they play the mode, forcing them to again make the choice between taking time off the online ranked mode to go back to single-player and grind more useful orcs, or to simply spend money to replace their losses. WB Games doesn’t care about single-player mode gamers. That is a temporary income. But, by making the time investment and ease of purchase a clear choice to gamers trying to remain competitive in their online ranked mode, they can ensure a steady stream of income from those most easily enthralled by addictive tendencies. There would be far less incentive to outrage your player-base by adopting loot boxes if this was a single-player-only title. It just so happens that the single-player mode suffering from this initiative is collateral damage, because the grind happens within the single-player mode and not the online mode. If you are going to disapprove, please do so only when properly informed of the truth. I for one will not be playing the online mode; so I will be voting with my wallet by not purchasing this game as I have no intention of suffering a grind-filled fourth act without the payoff of winning in the online ranked mode.