As I was cruising around for deals last week during Black Friday, I began to notice a trend starting to take shape with online stores. As you might imagine, recent EA games have begun to take a nose dive with user reviews (fair enough) thanks to all of the loot box insanity that has arisen with Star Wars Battlefront 2. The backlash has spread to games like Madden, FIFA, and Need for Speed Payback, which is a game that was also hammered for curiously gating much of its customization and progression through the idea of loot boxes.
Curiously enough, other loot box friendly games like Middle-earth: Shadow of War weren’t included in this practice, with many still sporting a sparkling 5 star user review.
So why is this? I can’t be 100% sure, but I do have a theory based on how the microtransactions and loot boxes are integrated into normal gameplay. With EA, it seems the publisher has made a point to tie a number of gameplay systems into the loot boxes including player progression.
Take Battlefront 2 for example. At its core, players upgrade their classes, vehicles, and heroes through star cards, which are earned only through loot boxes. Unlike Overwatch, loot boxes are purchased through in-game currency, and prior to its change of heart a couple of weeks ago, through premium currency. At the time, this meant that a player willing to spend real money on premium currency could effectively purchase new loot boxes faster than someone who was relying on currency earned through normal play.
So what we have here is a system that actively wants and rewards players for spending money on loot boxes.
When looking at Warner Bros and Shadow of War, we see a different style on display. The loot boxes in this game are basically more of a shortcut method. Using the in-game store, players can open chests that grant new orc followers or other in-game items and gear. Like most microtransaction enabled games, players can opt to spend premium currency purchased with real money or spend currency earned by playing.
As I played through the main game, I never once felt compelled or pressured to buy a loot box, even with my earned, in-game currency. Shadow of War always presented me with new loot and new orcs that using money in the store was really unnecessary. Yes, I could have purchased some epic level orcs, but honestly, part of the fun is just doing it yourself. The newly enhanced Nemesis System really takes care of you in this regard.
So could it be that the reason why Shadow of War has escaped the public’s wrath is that the game doesn’t reward people for spending money or tying critical gameplay elements to the in-game store? I can’t be 100% sure if this growing trend is a result of the aggressive nature of microtransactions in these EA games or perhaps that Battlefront 2 seems to have been the tipping point for the whole loot box concept.
Now, I’m not trying to justify the inclusion of microtransactions, I’m just trying to make sense of an interesting trend I’ve started to see online. Either way, it looks like games such as Shadow of War managed to dodge a bullet on this one. I’m curious to see what kind of change this outrage has brought on going forward.