- Related Games:
- Middle-Earth: Shadow of War
Middle-earth: Shadow of War has made many headlines for its inclusion of microtransactions, allowing the players to buy a variety of chests with in-game or premium currency, the latter of which will guarantee better items. While we don’t yet know enough about the game to properly judge how these microtransactions will affect gameplay, the mere inclusion of them in a $60 single-player-focused title has tested gamers’ tolerance.
But yesterday, when it came to light that Shadow of War would have an official pre-launch tie-in program with Totino’s Pizza Rolls, through which players can earn premium currency and other content, that tolerance limit was shattered for many. It’s main offering, the chance to win an Xbox One S, Controller, T-Shirt and digital copy of the game is par-for the-course, and raised no eyebrows. It was the addition of bonus rewards of premium currency you can use on microtransactions that have made people upset. Reading the fine print only made it worse: “There will be exclusive content.”
This means that premium content is locked behind a promotional deal with Totino’s Pizza. Looking even further into the deal, you’ll find that you can earn a maximum of 300 “Gold Pieces,” which is Shadow of War‘s premium currency. As we know from the reveal of Loot and War Chests, a Gold War Chest costs 200 Gold Pieces, so at best, you’ll get enough for one gold War Chest. Since Gold Pieces are awarded through Totino’s in amounts of 50, and 100, you will have to buy either three packs of Pizza Rolls or six Totino’s Pizzas in order to get that 300 Gold.
The exclusive content is only available for those who purchase a 90-count bag of Totino’s Pizza Rolls. This is all the sort of thing that many assumed was a joke, before quickly realizing that this was indeed a legitimate promotional tie-in. It could easily be a fan-made satire of the over-commercialization of modern-day AAA games, of which Shadow of War is a prime example. But, no – this is certainly real, and it’s certainly testing the patience of the games’ many fans and those who may have been interested in buying it.
Food-based tie-ins are nothing new, so perhaps this criticism is being unevenly applied, but the numerous tie-ins with Mountain Dew, Doritos and Monster Energy Drink have at least been fodder for many online jokes and other parodies with gamers laughing at how ridiculous these tie-ins are, according to many. And, because they’re coming in a single-player game that already has a series of gameplay-enhancing microtransactions placing the game in hot water, it seems the Totino’s tie-in could be the straw the broke the camel’s back.
It seems that if any one of these qualities were absent, there likely wouldn’t be as much blowback. If the microtransactions were purely cosmetic, for example, that might take the edge off. Or maybe if the content unlockable from the Pizza Roll tie-in wasn’t exclusive. Or maybe certain Chests weren’t only available with premium currency. There are a lot of factors about Shadow of War‘s Loot and War Chest system that create a perfect storm of controversy, and, while it may still turn out to be much ado about nothing, it may already be too late for some.
Of course, many people will say that, so long as people are buying into these microtransactions, then Monolith Productions are just giving the people what they want. But we know from many studies that the majority of gamers don’t buy into microtransactions. In fact, most of the money paid into microtransactions in video games comes from a fraction of a percent of the people who play those games.
So, all Middle-earth: Shadow of War and other games are doing is making the game better for a very small percentage of their playerbase, while potentially making the game worse for the others, depending on whether or not it takes a large amount of unnecessary grinding to get content for which people can pay. As I said, we don’t know how much will be required, but, because the Shadow of War developers haven’t been forthcoming with the full details of these microtransactions, we can only speculate.