The controversy was apparently just a misunderstanding.
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment has issued an apology and a course correction for its plans to charge money for the Middle-earth Shadow of War Forthog DLC. The DLC was designed to memorialize Michael Forgey, an executive producer on the game who died at 43 years old from a brain tumor last year, but Warner Bros. ran into some controversy when it announced plans to charge for Forthog in some territories but not others.
Originally, the plan was to sell the DLC for $3.99 and donate $3.50 from each sale through December 31, 2019 to support Forgey’s widow and children. But trouble started when fans read some small print at the end of a since-removed YouTube trailer indicating that Warner Bros. would only make charitable donations from Forthog sales made in certain US states and not from any foreign countries. This lead to accusations that Warner Bros. was profiteering off an employee’s death.
According to Warner Bros., however, this was all a big misunderstanding. A new post from a community administrator explains that the confusion was a matter of interstate and international laws preventing the company from disclosing that $3.50 from all sales would indeed be donated to Forgey’s family.
“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),” explains the post. “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.”
Following the initial controversy, Warner Bros. issued statements claiming neither it nor developer Monolith Productions would profit from Forthog sales in any way. The statements did not explain how this was possible, though, causing some consumers to remain skeptical. Warner Bros. now says that by clarifying its intent to donate money from all sales it “could have triggered compliance obligations” or put the company “in violation of cause marketing laws” in certain territories.
“We now recognize that tying our donation to sales of the DLC was not the best way to achieve our goal of offering financial support to the family and creating a lasting memorial to Michael Forgey,” the post continues. “We sincerely apologize to the fans and to the Forgey family for the confusion we created.
“To ensure the two original aims are still met and to provide transparency to the community, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment will instead make a donation directly to the Forgey family.”
Middle-earth Shadow of War releases on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC on October 10. Forthog will be available as a free download to all owners, and those who preordered the DLC will be refunded in full. Direct donations to the Forgey family can be made here.