Warner Bros. buys Lord of the Rings Online dev

Growing game publisher further locks down Tolkien-game holdings with purchase of MMORPG based on fantasy author's work; free-to-play Dungeons & Dragons Online also part of deal.

Today, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment further cemented its control over all things Lord of the Rings by purchasing Turbine, Inc. Founded in 1994, the privately held company is the developer of Lord of the Rings Online, the subscription-based massively multiplayer online role-playing game based on the fantasy realm of author J.R.R. Tolkien's novels. The move comes just under two years after the Boston-based developer received a $40 million investment from GGV Capital and Time Warner, WBIE's parent company.

"One deal to rule them all, and in the synergy bind them…."

Terms of today's deal were not disclosed, other than to say that it covered all LOTRO games, including the well-reviewed original, which costs $15 per month. ($10 monthly rates are available when in several-month packages.) That was followed by the 2008 release of its first expansion, the Mines of Moria, and the second, 2009's Siege of Mirkwood. During that time, the MMORPG was published by Midway Games, which went bankrupt last year. The majority of the company's assets, including the coveted Mortal Kombat license, were also bought by WBIE for approximately $49 million.

With the purchase of Turbine, WBIE has now locked down all gaming licenses associated with the Lord of the Rings IP. In 2009, it reclaimed rights for non-MMORPG Lord of the Rings games based both on the books and director Peter Jackson's film trilogy from Electronic Arts. The three films were distributed by New Line Cinema, a subsidiary of movie studio Warner Bros. Pictures, which is also owned by WBIE parent Time Warner.

The publishing label currently has two LOTR console games in development: The family-friendly Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest and the action role-playing game Lord of the Rings: War in the North. That roster may expand, as Turbine executives have openly expressed plans to develop a console MMORPG, most likely with the PlayStation 3 as a lead platform.

Besides the LOTRO rights, the Warner Bros. purchase includes Turbine's other MMORPG, Dungeons & Dragons: Eberron Unlimited. Originally launched as Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach in 2006, the game's popularity faltered, forcing Turbine to relaunch it as a free-to-play game last September. At the Austin Game Developers Conference last September, vice president of product development Craig Alexander said that subscriptions have actually gone up since the free-to-play option was introduced, and healing potions have been flying off the shelves of the microtransaction-driven in-game store.

D&DO is published by Atari, which is currently locked in a lawsuit over the Dungeons & Dragons game rights with IP-holder Hasbro. It is unclear how WBIE's purchase of Turbine will affect the arrangement.

Last but not least, today's deal gives Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment control of Turbine's proprietary digital publishing platform and its social networking platform. According to WBIE, the platform allows for communication between game communities and third-party social networks and "presents unique opportunities for Warner's other home entertainment businesses."

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Discussion

39 comments
aspencade91
aspencade91

If you are looking to start playing LoTRO, here is something to consider. Since Turbine released Rise of Isengard expansion last year, the game has become unstable and frequent crashes are typical for about half of those that play. I know this because I did a recent poll in my Kinship, which is quite large, and 47% responded to the question: "Have you had frequent crashes to the desktop ONLY since the release of RoI" with a yes. The crashes occur in the zones that were added with the RoI release, which are lvl 65+. It's a real bummer to spend 100's of hours getting to that level only to find that when you enter the post RoI zones, you have a 47% chance of being one of the unlucky ones that expierence problems. Furthermore, with update 6, many players crash to the desktop when logging out, which nerfs any setting changes you made to the game. I have brought these problems to the attention of Turbine, and they claim it's a client issue. Hmmm. Who writes the client software? They do. In short, they have no plans of fixing it. Consider this before you decide to purchase LoTRO. Do you feel lucky?

atopp399
atopp399

Games that you pay a $15 sub are better for gamers than companies that charge $10-$15 for a 3 map DLC or whatever. The companies that make those games that are free after purchase are really gettting greedy with their DLC.

Coordin
Coordin

@Zloth2 maybe your right but i'm still holding out hope that AC2 will make a come back since it was way ahead of the times when it was first released. much better game play then WoW imho

Gammet25
Gammet25

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

ekultus
ekultus

@Zioth2 Dude the only reason they charge is cause people will pay it. It may seem like a good deal but it's a rip off. Take WoW for example: 12mil subs @ say $10 a month = $120million a month. You are not getting that much content amigo. I doubt the game plus all the expansions cost that much to develop. Most would say oil companies rip you off as they charge $3.50 while their cost is $.005 cent. "But dude you can drive 350 miles on a full tank of gas"... that is basically the same argument. Anyways I drop hundreds of hours into other games and never pay after the initial purchase.

Zloth2
Zloth2

@Coordin, this will more likely mean the final death of Asheron's Call. @ekultus, $15 per month (probably less if you buy multiple months) is a steal assuming you play more than 15 hours a month.

ekultus
ekultus

@wormins I actually think WARhammer is pretty good but I just won't pay $15 a month when I have so many great games that are free after purchase. What's better 4million subs on a f2p game or 50,000 subs for a p2p game? These corporate morons don't even game, they are ruining it for us true fans.

Coordin
Coordin

Well i personally hope that with WB buying Turbine it will herald in the resurrection of AC2!

Big_Stingman
Big_Stingman

Everyone always says that they are interested in making an MMO for the PS3..yet here we are with no viable MMO's on that console. -.-

plm3d_basic
plm3d_basic

WB should also buy the movie rights including all Tolkien literature so they can finally make the Hobbit before I die.

mystery323x
mystery323x

Lotro was never free. You always at some point had to buy a Subscription. They did offer the Lifetime Sub at a discount if you bought the limited edition but still that isn't free.

KuRf
KuRf

LoTR online is free if you bought the special edition limited thing which gave you free for life subscription....hmmm i hope this is vegas will be release someday...that game look interesting..

Lach0121
Lach0121

if this does go f2p, i will check it out, but i got too many other games and programs i have paid for lately that i am going to check out.

pwnzord
pwnzord

Hmm rather misleading title there. Shame that LOTRO isn't free to play I would happily return along with numerous friends if that were the case.

ggregd
ggregd

LOTRO isn't free unless you're talking about a 7 day free trial. It's a good enough MMO that doesn't need to be free, and much deeper alternative to the raid and gear focused WoW. I hope WB doesn't mess with it.

eightdotthree
eightdotthree

lotro is a good game, maybe turbine will get some extra cash in there pockets and be able to speed development a little. I'm eager to see more middle earth.

Hekynn
Hekynn

It will be cool if they can make both mmo's look better and turn LOTRO into F2P. :)

mariostar0001
mariostar0001

Warner Bros. owns online LotR too? I can't tell if this will be good or bad. :?

wormins
wormins

@ekultus yeah DDO and Warhammer Online have alerady become f2p but some things/areas need to be paid for. Like in warhammer you cant get past level 10 if your a f2p :|

adilejaz
adilejaz

@pajamasammi!! I will be eager to see that happening!! lol!! :-p

VR_Verdugo
VR_Verdugo

LOTRO is a solid mmo as far as pve goes. I guess time will tell if this is good news for LOTRO and LOTR in general. While, no doubt, Warner Bros has a lot of money to invest in projects, that doesn't always translate to good results. We can only hope they stick to quality over quantity.

EchoEcho
EchoEcho

WBIE better not mess with LotRO. It's one of the few MMOs I've enjoyed enough to play consistently for several years, and I'll be damned if they twist Turbine's arm into doing something contrary to their vision for the game.

ekultus
ekultus

@Bobzfamily Yea I did the trial a few times, it's pretty good. What's with the title of this article then? Gamespot might be losing it! I also did a google and there was a few articles saying it may go f2p soon.

Pajamasammi
Pajamasammi

Next xpac is gonna be Aragorn meets Bugs Bunny.

jhon9728
jhon9728

ok so is there no monthly fee now? cause then i will get it. please tell me i'm confused

RE3_UBCS
RE3_UBCS

I was subscribed for 4 months before I decided to call it quits. The game faces a serious lack of challenging group content and due to low pop numbers its very hard to get groups going unless you're in a large sized kin. D&DO is a great F2P action mmo though.

Jinroh_basic
Jinroh_basic

a good news. hopefully this will provide Turbine with the funding to produce more quality titles.

Gruug
Gruug

LOTRO is NOT FTP. They got sub headline reversed. D&D Online is FTP (so-called).

Bobzfamily
Bobzfamily

@Ekultus: I doubt it. I played this game for a year and it is one of the only well done and polished mmorpg's out there that can rival WOW in terms of quality.

BloodMist
BloodMist

Yeah, well, they better not mess with them too much when it comes to LotRO.It's actually one of the few mmo's out there that is different enough, and polished enough, to be considered a quality game and a good alternative to WoW.There's a reason D&DO uses the payment method it uses, and i will acknowledge it's existence no further than that.

MERGATROYDER
MERGATROYDER

Well, with a push towards being free. I'm SOLD! I know they will charge for other things, but I enjoy the capability of being able to actually play the game for free. "Take note Blizzard/Activision"

hangyourcross
hangyourcross

Maybe they'll actually make the developers figure out what the hell they actually want LOTRO to be finally. Three years in and they're going in an entirely different direction every update. Played for two years and finally had to quit due to how terrible it had become.

Pete5506
Pete5506

I would give it a go if its free

ekultus
ekultus

So lotr online is f2p now? I will def play it if it is. Any one verify this?

Red_Jester
Red_Jester

Meh. The only good MMO they've made is Asheron's Call. Unless they make another game with a strong license and let's face it, you'll be hard pressed to beat Lord of the Rings, I don't see their future MMOs doing so well.

SirBongsAlot
SirBongsAlot

awesome, yet no mention of the MMORPG that made them what they are today Asheron's Call