As the gaming industry continues to navigate new ways to make money, we've seen the rise of the loot box. These in-game items are earned via gameplay, but player can also buy them. Their random nature means players will sometimes spend some cash to get the costumes, weapons, and gear that they want. In the end, the loot box is a bit of microtransactions and gambling all in one.
Following their inclusion in Lawbreakers, Fortnite, and Destiny 2, the loot box is getting another shot in Shadow of War, the sequel to Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor. Loot chests in Shadow of War give you new weapons, new armor, and and experience boosts. War chests give you new orc followers to make your army stronger.
In an interview with Eurogamer, Shadow of War design director Bob Roberts explained why the Monolith and Warner Bros turned to loot boxes in the game. Roberts noted that the game has been balanced internally with loot boxes completely turned off.
"We're working our tails off to make this massive game and as a designer - the design director - I focus on balancing it," he explained. "We do a ton of playtesting and make sure it is tuned to a setting where people can enjoy it. We kept all of the loot boxes and the economy of real world money turned off in playtesting so we know we are balancing around an experience which is rewarding without any of that stuff. We have tuned our game so it works without those things and that including them does not distract from the rest of it."
The reasoning for the inclusion of loot boxes sounds similar to other developers: it's an alternate method of progression, not the primary one for players. Roberts compared it to difficulty options.
"In the game you earn resources at a regular pace and the systems are tuned to that so you don't need another option. At the same time, it's there as a player choice. 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," said Roberts.
"It's the same design philosophy as us adding in difficulty modes. So we now have Easy mode, and we've added Hard mode at the other end of the spectrum. The ideal for people who set it to Easy is if they are just finding things too punishing, not because they don't want to die. We'd rather you die regularly to get the full experience of the Nemesis system."
In the end, Monolith hopes that players feels they've gotten their money's worth with the game, without spending a dime on loot boxes.
"You put your 60 bucks in for a big game like ours upfront and our focus is that its initial purchase price is more than worth it," said Roberts.
Shadow of War is launching on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 on October 10, 2017.