Midway to copublish LOTR Online

Publisher joins forces with Turbine to help bring its Middle-earth-set MMORPG to the masses later this year.

Just under a year ago, Turbine, Inc. announced it had ended its agreement with VU Games to publish the massively multiplayer game Middle-earth Online. Originally slated for a June 2005 launch, the game had been beset by a series of delays, which appeared to have prompted the Massachusetts-based developer to self-publish the title.

"Our rights extend to any and all MMORPGs based on [author J.R.R.] Tolkien's literary works The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. As a result, we are now the developer and publisher of Middle-earth Online," a Turbine spokesperson told GameSpot following the announcement. Turbine's rights do not extend to director Peter Jackson's wildly popular Lord of the Rings films, which Electronic Arts has the exclusive license to.

Today, though, the developer announced that it is no longer self-publishing Middle-earth Online, which has since been renamed The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar. Instead, Turbine has joined forces with Midway Games, which will now copublish and distribute the fantasy PC title, set for release later this year.

"Midway's extensive North American distribution capabilities should ensure a strong and broad based retail presence for The Lord of the Rings Online," said Turbine president CEO of Jeffrey Anderson in a statement. Steve Allison, Midway's chief marketing officer, concurred. "We...look forward to leveraging our expertise to bring The Lord of the Rings Online to the vast legions of Tolkien fans."

The announcement marks Midway's first foray into the MMORPG genre. Previously an almost entirely consolecentric company, the publisher began a push into the PC market in summer 2004, when it stole away the acclaimed Unreal license from Atari. Ironically, Atari is publishing Turbine's other upcoming MMORPG, Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach, which ships next week.

The Midway deal appears to contradict Turbine's long-stated goal of becoming a stand-alone developer, publisher, and distributor of MMORPGs. In late 2003, it bought back the rights to its signature Asheron's Call title from Microsoft, and raised $18 million to support the game its sequel, Asheron's Call 2, itself.

In February 2005, Turbine declared it had tweaked its business model to embrace digital distribution and become a full-service provider of all its game content. By March, it announced it was self-publishing Middle-earth Online, which it would also fully support. In April, it inked a deal for "strategic partnership" with Shanda, one of China's biggest MMOG companies. Then Turbine raised $30 million to help it continue development of LOTR online with the goal of self-publishing the title.

However, as 2005 progressed, signs emerged that all was not well at Turbine. In August, the company announced it was shuttering its Santa Monica studio and ceasing online support of Asheron's Call 2. The game shut down on December 30.

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Discussion

21 comments
ufopuller
ufopuller

Hard to even give LOTR series away

LucaBlight24
LucaBlight24

Well as long as ea doesn't do it i'm happy with that.

Jedi_Osborn
Jedi_Osborn

sweet. don't see me paying for it, esp when guild wars is free

alberto2045
alberto2045

I DONT UNDERSTAND THIS, LOL IT MIGHT BE CAUSE I DIDNT READ IT LOLOLOLOLOLOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

KarthikKane
KarthikKane

Why are the developers taking risks by working with a console centric publisher like Midway?! Even thier revenues are going down the drain.

cyprus646
cyprus646

i can see a LOTR MMO sounds like a great idea hope theres no monthly fee.

theirishweasel
theirishweasel

ehhhh...they definitely should have tried to get the rights from the movies and the other books: The Silmarillion/ Lost Tales....etc.... I think the game would be cooler if were set in like the 1st or 2nd age... Having a game set in the LoTR era is gonna be hard to pull off...I just hope it's not as stupid as the "Third Age" game.

ghostpanther
ghostpanther

Hmmm and what is this game going to offer that will set it apart from all the other games out there like Guild Wars, EQ and World of Warcraft??? EA should buy the rights from these guys and make the game the fans want based on the Peter Jackson movies.

Oni
Oni

I wanna play as a lil HOBBIT dammit! :) Can't wait this game looks awesome!

runstalker
runstalker

Hopefully this means they can hire more staff for the live updates/expansion that LotR Online will need. That's my only worry with Turbine; they're not a totally elite company, but D&D Online was, you know, pretty good dungeon romping in beta...I just worry about their resources. Having enough staff to actually provide content patches between two games (*Cough* Asheron's Call 1 & 2 *Cough* D&D Online and LotR Online) and justify the $14.99 monthly fee.

David_W
David_W

More importantly, will LOTR online crash my PC every three minutes just like D&D does?

minu_lord
minu_lord

Looks promising, but without the movies' license I think it won't be as interesting as EA's titles. And MIt_Man, EA will release a new LOTR game which will be called LOTR: The White Council (but don't know when exactly).

David_W
David_W

More importantly, will LOTR online crash my PC every three minutes just like D&D does?

molivers7
molivers7

Is Turbine worried about DDO flopping? I keep getting mixed reviews on the game. A failure would hurt them and may put Atari out of business.

Mit_Man
Mit_Man

Is this the same company that made those garbage LOTR games based on the books? If so, this game is probably not going to be good, and expect EA to come out with one that's actually good after this one comes out, based on the movie universe.

Donkeljohn
Donkeljohn

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