When The Lord of the Rings: Conquest arrived on store shelves in mid-January, it faced a tepid reception. In the wake of lukewarm reviews, the game saw only 170,000 units sold domestically through the end of January, according to figures from the NPD Group. It fared particularly badly on the PC and DS, selling less than 6,000 units in the US on either platform during its first two weeks of release.
Today, Variety aired a possible reason for Conquest's poor reception--namely, that the game might have been rushed to release. According to the Hollywood trade, Electronic Arts' license to make games based on director Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films expired on December 31, 2008--just two weeks before the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC game shipped to stores.
Variety reports that after the new year, rights for the Rings films reverted to movie studio Warner Bros., an assertion neither EA nor Warner Bros. would comment on. If true, though, the move comes just almost exactly one year after New Line Cinema, the semi-autonomous studio that produced Jackson's multibillion-dollar-grossing Rings trilogy, was folded into Warner Bros. by the pair's corporate parent, Time Warner Inc. (Turbine's massively multiplayer title Lord of the Rings Online is based on the original novels by author J.R.R. Tolkien and is not covered by the EA-Warner deal.)
The expiration of EA's game license also makes sense, given Warner Bros.'s increasing push to become a game-industry player. Four years prior to New Line's absorption, Warner Bros. relaunched its games arm, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. The past two years have seen Time Warner pour more resources into the division, which has shifted from merely overseeing licensing game IPs to codistributing such games as Tomb Raider: Underworld and self-developing games like the just-released Watchmen: The End Is Nigh. The publisher also owns developers Monolith Productions and Traveller's Tales, makers of F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin and Lego Batman, respectively.