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Loot boxes in full priced games is a controversial topic. Many gamers aren't very fond of having microtransactions littered throughout a full-priced $60 game, especially when they're made aware that the microtransactions will be available at launch. Well, the design director for Middle-Earth: Shadow of War has attempted to explain away why the game is launching with loot boxes.
It's there, from my perspective, for people who are protective of their spare time and scared when a massive game comes along that they're not getting to see the full experience.
Interestingly enough, Eurogamer asked if Roberts planned on using the microtransactions to help speed through the game, but he side-steps the question. Roberts also considers the microtransactions to be options for consumers in the same way that difficulty settings are options for consumers, saying that the different difficulties will be there for people who want more or less of a challenge from Middle-Earth: Shadow of War.
Many of the commenters on the article were angered at that response, and instead likened the comparison to charging for the difficulty settings.
Roberts also mentions that the topic is definitely charged, and that despite all of the features that the team is adding into and improving on Shadow of War, the conversation always devolves back into the microtransaction debate.
One of the main issues gamers have is that they feel as if they should get the whole experience for $60 without having to pay extra or feel obliged to partake in an artificial grind in order to siphon fun out of the game like drawing blood from a stone. There's already a lot of apprehension about Shadow of War and how the microtransactions may affect the leveling and progression systems in the game.
For games with microtransactions, especially when it comes to loot boxes, EXP boost, damage boosts, character buffs, or other bonuses that affect the player character or game world, a lot of gamers feel as if there is sometimes an artificial grind implemented to make unlocking things normally a more difficult task than usual in order to entice gamers to look at the cash shop.
This is typically how free-to-play games work, where the cash shop subsidizes the cost of maintaining the game since the cost of entry is free. The grind is especially high and attempting to unlock or attain rare and high-quality gear usually requires investing some amount of real cash. Gamers expect this from free-to-play titles since the cash shop is how developers make money on the game.
However, when cash shops are present in $60 games it makes it a little more difficult to stomach their presence. We'll see how much of a role the loot boxes and microtransactions play in Middle-Earth: Shadow of War when the game launches in October for Xbox One, PS4 and PC.