A Middle-earth: Shadow of War [official site] DLC character created to memorialise and fundraise for a deceased member of the development team will now be given free to all players, Warner Bros. have decided after it raised a stink. Styled after executive producer Michael Forgey, who passed away in 2016, the Forthog Orcslayer is a friendly NPC who was initially sold to benefit Forgey's family. But a communication mistake suggested WB would only donate money from purchases in the US, keeping money from elsewhere for themselves (WB later clarified that wasn't the case). After the memorial became a mess, WB will make the Forthog Orcslayer free and themselves donate money direct to the family.
The Forthog Orcslayer was sold for £3.99, with most of it going to Forgey's family (and the rest to cover development costs, WB said). He's a friendly orc NPC who could appear when players needed help, cutting down enemies for a bit with his guitar-shaped axe (Forgey played in bands, see).
But the DLC's Steam page specified that WB would only donate money within the USA, minus six excluded certain states. Asked whether this meant purchases from elsewhere wouldn't count towards donations to Forgey's family, the game's official Twitter responded "You are right about that, but you can also help by spreading the word." While WB later tried to make clear that they wouldn't profit from Forthog sales, the incorrect message had already spread and caused a stink.
Last night, Warner Bros. announced that they will make the Forthog Slayer free for all players, refund purchases, and make an unspecified donation "directly to the Forgey family."
They also said that the weirdness behind the awful miscommunication was down to avoiding potentially breaking marketing laws:
"Although we decided to donate all profits to the family, we only planned to actively promote this donation in the U.S. (excluding certain states based on their charitable promotion laws). We hoped this approach would raise as much money as possible for the Forgey family in compliance with the law. Our decision not to promote the donation outside the U.S. (even though we intended to donate the money) caused many to question where funds from other territories were going. Answering that direct question itself could have triggered compliance obligations or put us in violation of cause marketing laws in some of the 241 territories in which the content was available.
"Additionally, a factually incorrect tweet from our team exacerbated the confusion by stating that international funds would not be going to the family. For absolute clarity; our intention was always to give all profits from the DLC, worldwide to the Forgey family."
Forgey was diagnosed with an aggressive brain cancer in May 2015. He and his family established a fundraising campaign on YouCaring, seeking $300,000 to "help cover the medical expenses and securing the future for Mike's children." He died in March 2016.
Middle-earth: Shadow of War will launch on October 10th.