Lord of the Rings Online to go free-to-play

Warner Bros. is to make its recently acquired flagship MMO game free to play this fall, beta to start June 16.

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Massively multiplayer online role-playing game Lord of the Rings Online is to go free-to-play, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and Codemasters announced today. This will make LOTRO Warner Bros.' second free-to-play MMO game, after the successful switch away from a subscription model for Dungeons & Dragons Online last year.

No word on whether WBIE plans to charge extra for torches.
No word on whether WBIE plans to charge extra for torches.

Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar was released to critical acclaim in 2007, with expansions following in 2008 and 2009. Subscriptions to play currently cost up to $15 a month. The game will be free to play, but a new online LOTRO store will allow players to purchase "expansions, quest packs, items, and account services a la carte," according to Warner Bros. As with DDO, players will also be able to buy a VIP package, which gives players access to all of the premium features for one price--though the price itself was not revealed.

The project will be among the first overseen by Jeff Junge, WBIE's newly appointed senior vice president of online games and digital games platforms. Junge was given responsibility for the firm's entire digital games business in May. Codemasters will continue to publish the title in Europe alongside DDO, which it also publishes in the region.

LOTRO is developed by Turbine, which WBIE acquired in April to consolidate its control of the Lord of the Rings gaming licences. The acquisition followed Warner's reacquisition of non-MMO game rights to the franchise in March 2009. LOTRO was originally published by the now-defunct Midway Games.

The move will see LOTRO and its expansions disappear from store shelves, as all the distribution will be done through the new LOTRO online store. WBIE has said that the free-to-play version of the MMO game will be available to play at the Electronic Entertainment Expo later this month.

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