Clearly not satisfied with the dank cave dwellings and raw fish for dinner that comes with being a corporate board member of a huge entertainment conglomerate, WB Games have decided to ask players exactly what else they’ve got in their pocketses, going full Gollum with lootboxes in Monolith Productions’ Middle Earth: Shadow of War.

Prices for the gold needed to buy the lootboxes, which contain otherwise rare orcs, range from a second breakfast sized £3.99 to a Mines of Moria busting £79.99, with more bonus gold the more you spend. Because of course there is. Because it’s costing WB games nothing.

Tricksy Publishers…

While early reviews insist the microtransactions aren’t necessary to have fun with the game, and I’m sure most of us have the ability to ignore the lootboxes entirely, the target market here is plain to see: younger gamers with access to their guardians’ credit cards, and the vulnerable adults that the industry refers to as ‘whales’ – the minority of consumers that provide over 50% of the revenue gained from this sort of practice. Now it seems that late sections of the game have actually been designed as intentionally grind heavy to encourage spending. Employing psychology to make games more compelling is nothing new, and doesn’t have to be manipulative,  but when mechanics are made intentionally boring to encourage spending, the art suffers, and so do the players.

In case all the cheesy references didn’t clue you in, I love me some Middle Earth, and I really dug Shadow of Mordor, but I’m going to have to vote with my wallet here and give this one a miss. So thanks, WB. There’s no curse in Elvish, Entish or the tongues of men for this treachery.

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Nic Reuben

Nic Reuben likes to pause games every five minutes to ponder the thematic implications of explosive barrel placement. When he's not having an existential crisis over CAPTCHA verifications that ask him to prove he's not a robot, he's reading sci-fi and fantasy short stories, watching cartoons, and mourning the writing standards in Game of Thrones.