With the recent announcement from Monolith Studios that the upcoming Middle-earth: Shadow of War would feature micro-transactions for the single-player campaign, are we seeing the start of a forced trend? Undoubtedly such a decision has come from Warner Bros. rather than the developers themselves. Warner Bros. showed notorious greed and apathy towards a botched launch of 2015’s Arkham Knight, so the inclusion of small transactions to amp up your single-player experience comes as no real surprise.
However, what are we starting to see here? Paying to power up a character to sidestep the various quests and side-missions that would allow normal power-ups to be earned seems ludicrous. A micro-transaction (that’s not for cosmetics) and allows you to pay to power up without earning the achievement, is the beginning of the end. Why would anyone think this would be a good idea? The whole purpose of a single-player game is to have an experience, not unlike watching a movie. A GOOD single-player game will present a story through interactive narrative, imagine going to a cinema and being given the option to pay extra just to fast forward through the film to the end, you’d laugh your way out of the cinema, but that’s what we’re seeing here!
Shadow of War was a game I was really looking forward to. I was a huge fan of the Shadow of Mordor and felt it slotted nicely into the Tolkienverse it was part of. I had the same hope that SoW would have the same verisimilitude of the original and present a fantastic experience in a Middle-earth I wanted to play in, now with these announcements that’s been kind of soured. I have massive issues with these small ‘extras’ creeping into games. DLC, I found a hard pill to swallow, but for additional content – fair enough, the studio has to make a profit from the extra work put in. However, it’s always questionable when you pay for DLC and it just unlocks part of the content on the disc the game came on, that’s just chopping up a whole game and asking for extra. Try going into a bakery, ordering a whole cake, paying for it, but the vendor keeps a couple of slices back and wants more money – no chance.
So with that in mind, why would WB want to crap on a gamer’s experience by giving them the option to not experience a full campaign. I get some people don’t have the time to play games like SoW in depth, but if that’s the case don’t play that kind of game. A game should be an experience, like a great novel, the story slowly unfolds around you, you’re drip-fed a narrative, you see the world through your character’s eyes. I often compare a game’s structure to more like a novel rather than its cinematic cousin, I can see why a film would be a closer comparison due to them being both visual mediums, but look at the time and detail and structure of a game and a novel and you’ll see they’re pretty close.
If this is the first of many plans for games being published by Warner Bros, imagine what they would have lined up for us if Rocksteady announced a new entry in the Arkham series. Micro-transactions that would instantly give Batman all of his gadgets and moves, that’s half of the fun of these type of games, you earn a new power or item and you get a little thrill out of trying it out for the first time. I have great memories from Arkham Asylum the first time I learned how to do a takedown using a gargoyle. It was great – I felt like I had made progress as my walking in Batman’s skin, I just think if they had given us that straight off the bat (no pun intended), then a little part of that experience would be lost.
It would be ideal if consumers punished the company doing this by not buying the game, but that’s counter-productive. It’s not the developers’ fault that they felt this needed to be done, so why should they suffer from poor sales because of it? That seems an extreme reaction, but I am reading a lot of comments from gamers online who ARE talking about boycotting the game.
Either way, micro-transactions do not belong in gaming, certainly not a single-player game, and certainly not to allow a user to have a diluted experience.