Developer Monolith Productions says it's removing microtransactions from Middle-Earth: Shadow of War. Starting May 8th, players won't be able to buy in-game gold. Then, on July 17th, gold, war chests, and the marketplace will all go away permanently.
"The core promise of the Nemesis System is the ability to build relationships with your personal allies and enemies in a dynamic open world," Monolith says in a forum post. "While purchasing Orcs in the Market is more immediate and provides additional player options, we have come to realize that providing this choice risked undermining the heart of our game, the Nemesis System. It allows you to miss out on the awesome player stories you would have otherwise created, and it compromises those same stories even if you don’t buy anything. Simply being aware that they are available for purchase reduces the immersion in the world and takes away from the challenge of building your personal army and your fortresses."
People criticized Shadow of War's loot box system when it first launched in September 2017. At the time, Monolith promised it wouldn't affect player progression. Everything found in war chests could be earned in-game for free. But, players felt it was an unwelcome alternative to grinding, especially in a full-priced title.
The game became part of a larger controversy surrounding loot boxes last year, one mainly focused on Star Wars: Battlefront 2 and its greedy progression system. A number of U.S. lawmakers are now trying to regulate loot boxes, calling them a form of legalized gambling for children. The Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) defended them, but also promised to create new labels and educational outreach programs.
Despite the controversy, Shadow of War's loot boxes aren't going away completely. In a FAQ detailing the game's upcoming changes, Monolith says they can still be earned in-game through Online Conquests and Online Vendettas. Online Fight Pits will continue to award Training Orders through chests, Community Challenges will award chests, and Spoils of War chests will now contain Training Orders instead of Orcs, including a guaranteed Legendary Training Order. There will also be more ways to recruit and upgrade Orcs, Monolith adds, including recruitment during Online Conquests and Online Vendettas, and more Legendary Orcs will be present in the game.
Additionally, Monolith is updating the Shadow Wars mode, where the player defends fortresses against Sauron's attacks.
"This portion of the game will be improved with new narrative elements and streamlined for a more cohesive experience," it says. "For players who choose to continue with these on-going fortress defense missions, the Endless Siege update released last November will still be available. We’ll also be incorporating many other gameplay improvements that will be detailed in future build notes, including Nemesis System updates, new player skins, skill tree additions, gear system upgrades and progression updates, just to name a few that we’re excited about."