Warner Bros. on lording over Lord of the Rings

Q&A: WBIE president Martin Tremblay discusses publisher's new film, literary rights to Tolkien's trilogy; LOTR: Aragorn's Quest coming to Wii, DS, PS2, PSP this fall, "core" installments in series to follow.


In a bit of a pre-Electronic Entertainment Expo blunder, the Entertainment Software Association floated mention of Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest, a family-friendly installment in J.R.R. Tolkien's hallmark fantasy universe to be published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. The inadvertent reveal ostensibly confirmed earlier reports that WBIE had acquired the rights to make games based on fellow Time Warner subsidiary New Line Cinema's films, rights that were heretofore held by Electronic Arts.

A kinder, family-friendly Aragorn.
A kinder, family-friendly Aragorn.

Today, WBIE officially confirmed the existence of Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest, saying that the game will be the first to be released under a new "long-term" partnership with LOTR literary rights holder The Saul Zaentz Company. As a result of the deal, WBIE now has the literary and film rights to develop and publish multiple games based on Tolkien's trilogy across a breadth of platforms and genres. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Warner Bros. also offered a number of details on Aragorn's Quest, which is expected to arrive for the Wii, DS, PS2, and PSP this fall. As previously reported, the title will be a family-oriented third-person action game, though the publisher also noted that future LOTR games will be targeted at more adult gamers as well. Aragorn's Quest reflects upon the journeys of the titular King of Gondor, as told by an aging Samwise Gamgee following the conclusion of the events in the novels.

The publisher did not delve too deeply into specifics on the title, saying only that the game will be action-oriented, with players assuming the role of Aragorn as he battles his way through Sauron's legions. The Wii edition of the game, which is in development at Headstrong Games (The House of the Dead: Overkill), will also support two-player cooperative gameplay, where Gandalf joins Aragorn on his adventures.

GameSpot recently got in touch with WBIE president Martin Tremblay to learn more about his company's plans for the Lord of the Rings in the coming years.

GameSpot: New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. are all part of the same parent company, so what took so long for WBIE to pick up the rights to make games based on The Lord of the Rings?

Martin Tremblay: Last year, New Line was combined with Warner Bros. theatrical directly and so it became a part of Warner Bros. for the theatrical licensing. Recently, The Saul Zaentz Company also had the option to partner with us on the literary rights. Thus, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, The Saul Zaentz Company, and New Line Productions have established a long-term partnership regarding the literary and film rights to develop and publish games based on The Lord of the Rings trilogy. As WBIE has grown and more than doubled our lineup since 2008, it made sense to add an amazing intellectual property like The Lord of the Rings to the mix.

GS: What prompted you all to move in on the IP? Why now?

MT: Over the next few years, dedicated fans of The Lord of the Rings will see Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment publish multiple games across many genres designed to appeal to a wide range of unique gamers, ranging from hardcore role-playing game fans to families who want to enjoy the lore of the property in different ways. All these future games will help us build a strong foundation of top-notch products to build both our business and a reputation for quality games.

GS: Will Warner Bros. be making a point of developing more games based on its film properties in-house?

MT: All the Warner Bros. divisions are open to working together to best leverage our properties. Warner Bros. is an exceptional storytelling company, and we have an abundance of great properties to work with. WBIE is also dedicated to finding high-quality, sustainable new IP that fits our strategy for growth, so expect a balance of both established brands and original IP to be part of our business plan.

GS: How far, exactly, do WBIE's rights extend with LOTR? How do the rights to Turbine's MMOG Lord of the Rings Online fit into this equation?

MT: WBIE has secured the literary and film rights to develop and publish games based on The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which allows us to develop console and PC games across all platforms and genres. Turbine holds the MMOG rights at this time, and WBIE only handles the distribution for the game.

Rivendell's rolling hills.
Rivendell's rolling hills.

GS: Are you all approaching the LOTR IP as something you can exploit annually? Or, how often do you expect WBIE to release games based on the IP?

MT: WBIE is dedicated to quality product that fits the needs and desires of our gaming audience, so we don't plan to exhaust game franchises. We do have plans to regularly release games based on The Lord of the Rings that meet the demands and desires of the gaming public and also help us achieve our business goals successfully.

GS: What's been the biggest challenge in ramping up in-house game development efforts?

MT: There is a challenge in matching the best technology and game development teams with the right properties so that we can make the best games. We have very strong internal teams and that is how we are looking to overcome this challenge. Monolith Productions, TT Games, and Snowblind Studios are wholly owned by Warner Bros. Snowblind has the technology to make cutting edge RPG games, while TT Games has a great track record of creating outstanding family games that have wide appeal to all gamers. With Monolith, we utilize its renowned technological capabilities for making high-quality first-person shooter and hardcore franchises.

GS: What do you feel is attractive about the LOTR IP from a publisher's perspective?

MT: The Lord of the Rings is among the most well-crafted and revered stories of all time. The opportunity to create video game adventures based on this stellar world and offer high-quality videogames for gamers and story fans will hopefully allow WBIE to continue increasing both the caliber of our products and our reach with consumers.

GS: What do you feel is attractive about the LOTR IP from a consumer's perspective?

MT: For gamers, the opportunity to realistically interact with and take on the roles the of the most fabled characters of Middle-earth, control their experiences, progress against the evil Sauron and his multitude of enemy forces, and hopefully prevail as a result of passion and dedication in first-hand adventures is an amazing opportunity that beckons for them to engage!

GS: Given that so many LOTR games have already been made, how much potential do you think the franchise still has?

MT: The franchise is loaded with potential. The richness of The Lord of the Rings world is such that there are infinite possibilities for new gaming adventures. I am very excited about some of our upcoming games based on LOTR, and when the timing is right, I cannot wait to share our plans for games that will appeal more to hardcore gamers and RPG fans.

And now with WBIE's new game The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest, we are introducing the first game in the franchise crafted with an explicit goal of helping veteran fans of the story engage younger players in Tolkien's world. Gamers take on the role of Aragorn and learn the great tale of the War of the Ring in way that is accessible for younger audiences, unlike The Lord of the Rings games in the past. It is available for the first time for casual gaming fans with a version build specifically for the Wii. It will also be available on the DS, PSP and PS2. However, The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest is a game that can be enjoyed by all ages because of the storyline and the gameplay.

GS: How does WBIE plan to differentiate its use of the license from previous rights holders?

MT: Making The Lord of the Rings games for the core gamer, as well as all ages of gamers, is an innovation, and we will be announcing additional titles later that will showcase the innovations and differences. We are looking deeper into the literary world to explore things that have yet to be seen in games for fans of the franchise and gamers of all types.

GS: How much leeway do you have in creating new stories that fall outside the LOTR canon?

MT: WBIE works very closely with The Saul Zaentz Company and New Line to ensure the integrity and authenticity of gaming storylines based on The Lord of the Rings, and we are working to do things that have not yet been done with the license in the game space.

The Shire, on a clear, sunny day.
The Shire, on a clear, sunny day.

GS: LOTR isn't exactly a dark fantasy universe, but it definitely has its fair share of death and destruction. Why go the family-friendly route with WBIE's first effort with the franchise?

MT: A LOTR title was already released by EA in 2009 for the core audience, and WBIE now has The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest for gamers of all ages, so we wanted to avoid cannibalization with our upcoming core titles. We will have hardcore games that we want to differentiate from other titles based on The Lord of the Rings, and we hope to surprise consumers and fans with those titles.

GS: Can we expect a Lego Lord of the Rings any time soon?

MT: We don't have anything to discuss at this time. Lego Rock Band and Lego Battles are the games we have currently announced with the Lego franchise.

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Avatar image for Davidek13

I'll download this game.. too bad WB didn't stick with the formula of the T ESRB rating for LOTR games. I want a next gen LOTR film game! Two Towers, Third Age, and Return of the Kingfor Ps3,306, and PC!!!!! If they ever mke that I bet they will make tons of $$! I need this LOTR games remake... (since not everyone have a console... were' the PC lov?)

Avatar image for Coolyfett

I may pick up the PSP version of this game, but I do hope it is not too childish!! I am looking for something to suck me in.

Avatar image for Hobbitslayer18

Every time I read this it makes me feel so sad, lotr isnt made for kids aged 6-10 but for teens aged 13- 18 (or older). I really hope they will complete this game as fast as possible so they can start creating a new, and more teen-adult based lotr game.

Avatar image for gingergamer

Looks interesting. I quite enjoyed the hack and slash LOTR games and BFME2 was absolutely epic. I will definitely be looking out for their "hardcore" games but i dont think i will be getting this one personally...

Avatar image for dr-snowman

i do like the graphics even if they are cartoony i hope its also an rpg

Avatar image for bibliomaniac15

Since when was LOTR family friendly? And don't mention the cartoons, for the love of God.

Avatar image for MasonB15

i am sad now to be a lotr fan and i do believe warner bros. has stooped to low now they need to stop this crap.

Avatar image for Hulksmash77

PS2?!?!?! oh crap!! I think we are screwed Wii owners!

Avatar image for PerfectJones

Looks alright to me. Guess I'll have to wait and see what it plays like. It's good to me that games are still being made for the PS2. I would have liked to have had the option for co-op on the PS2 version though (like what the Wii is getting). Oh well. Here's a trailer for it: << LINK REMOVED >>

Avatar image for starduke

Wow, I just looked at my comment about my idea for the TES type LOTR RPG and saw that it had 21 ups on it. There are lot of people who'd like to see a game like that. Who knows, maybe WBIE will make it...and do a good job...and maybe someday I'll finally get enough money to buy a flying car. Well, it's highly unlikely I'll ever be able to buy a flying car, but the first two might happen. Hmm, I wonder if WBIE is looking for idea people. Because I have tons of ideas for games, both for my own original content and existing franchises like LOTR, and lack the funding and resources to implement them. I'm still in college, (not in game design, because of the math involved. I'm an artist, not Einstien!) but maybe someday you'll see some games that I've either worked on or came up with the ideas for. Who knows, if you keep you eyes open and you might see my aka (starduke) in the credits of a game, movie, or book some time in the future.

Avatar image for starduke

"Gamers take on the role of Aragorn and learn the great tale of the War of the Ring in way that is accessible for younger audiences" Actually, when I was in the target age group of this game (probably 5-10 years old) my mother read to me the LOTR books. It gave me nightmares. At least the part where the Riders were chasing Frodo and the Witchking stabbed him and the part where Gandalf fought the Balrog did. I was at the point where I didn't want my parents to check in my closet and under my bed for monsters. However, I did check them myself every night when she was reading me the books, with my toy sword and my toy gun ready in case a Balrog was under my bed and a Rider was in my closet. It wasn't until she read to me the end of the last book that I put away my toy sword and toy gun. When the movies came out the Riders and Balrog looked just like the ones in my nightmares. The thing was, even though at the time the books gave me nightmares, I loved them (and couldn't wait to read them to myself and pretty much taught myself how to read so I could) and still do. This game is not even close to the Middle Earth I imagined from the books, or the one I saw in the movies. It's too bright and cheerful! If everything looks like the screen shots, and not just Rivendell and the Shire which were two of the few cheerful spots in the books (and the Shire wasn't that cheerful near the end), then this game is a travesty! The screen shot of Aragorn makes him look like a SD cartoon wannabe instead of the really powerful and brave future king he is supposed to be. I mean, I keep looking at the screenshots to see if Bugs Bunney is in them, somewhere. It is a WB game, after all.

Avatar image for starduke

This kind of reminds me of a scene in one of the animated LOTR movies. Where Frodo is day dreaming about going home and everything is happy-go-lucky. He just flips the Ring into mount doom and they walk out.They even have a part of that scene where he and Sam wave at some SMILING orcs who HAPPILY wave back at them. Of course, later Frodo has to wake up and get back to the fact that his world is NOT kid freindly and that orcs only smile when they are planning to kill you. Whoever came up with this bright idea should actually read the books and watch the movies. Or if they have, and still thought this was a good idea, they should be walloped with a one volume edition LOTR book. The hardcover version. Maybe that'll get it into their heads that LOTR is not little kid friendly.

Avatar image for Dr-Manhattan

this is the day i feel ashamed to be a lotr fan.

Avatar image for Ikouze

This game is for kids? No wonder Aragorn looks so Family-Friendly. Whoa.

Avatar image for snakki

Oh why kid's game? Nooo..

Avatar image for sirdluiiea

the character model of aragon looks like it was made by fisher-price

Avatar image for SWfreak16

Well, hopefully we'll get a good Elder Scrolls like LotR RPG some time soon. I'd love to see that. And hey, it could be worse.

Avatar image for ManiacG

ahh the all out last desperate attempt to kill the lotr Lore, its like a toilet after they crapped and flushed they notice a flick off poo in the bottom, so they pick it up and goes like, hey thats our story right there Lotr: aragons Quest! il just end with this, if you buy this you can tatto retarded on your forehead :)

Avatar image for IgotEpixx

Good god, whats next? God of War: God of Bunnies? Call of Duty: Peaceful Warfare? World of PeaceCraft?

Avatar image for hahamanin

after reading some of the below comments....i must say that ITS NOT EA WHO R PUBLISHING THIS GAME........get ur eyes checked

Avatar image for ChargEd

Well, at least he does a good job of hyping his company. Let's see if they can deliver. I'm waiting for the more "adult" themed LOTR game.

Avatar image for improbabletruth

Why not release to 360 also? Is it cause because the 360 already has LOTR: Conquest?

Avatar image for sonynhater

this is not LOTR...

Avatar image for ldonyo

At least they're keeping the cutesy-looking game on platforms where cutesy is the norm.

Avatar image for LithuanianGamer

The publisher also noted that future LOTR games will be targeted at more adult gamers as well.

Avatar image for LithuanianGamer

This is too childish for me

Avatar image for sexyfunkmaster

this looks like EA's crappy copy of fable 2... just not as good EA is just using LOTR to get money, and they will keep putting out crappy LOTR games cuss people buy them for some reason. Until you people stop saying your not going to buy it then buy it they will keep putting it out there for you to buy... Just stop! Please!

Avatar image for Chosen_of_Chaos

The trees in Battlefield Heroes look more like real trees though.

Avatar image for Chosen_of_Chaos

I give up (bang)...x(

Avatar image for DGonlag

The graphics really suck, The game could be good, but then should the graphics be much better, and the game should be on XBOX360 and PS3. Wii, DS, PS2 and PSP.... Who made that up? LOTR rocks, but it's sucks even more every game they make...

Avatar image for pwndOo

Please dont fk LOTR up AGAIN, EA... I would rather see battle for middle earth 3

Avatar image for mike12348

and BF heros isnt to bad it gets a bit boring tho

Avatar image for mike12348

Do kids these days even know what LotR is? and way to bright LOOKS FREKING TERIBLE DONT RUIN LOTR!

Avatar image for HipHopTrilogy

this just looks simply stupid.

Avatar image for Dr_McTeabag

Too bad it will sell like hot cakes. They will probably make another one. As soon as parents see bright colors and their kids see a sword and shield it's an instant buy -regardless of whether or not they are LOTR fans. I'm not a big fan of LOTR but this is not doing it justice.

Avatar image for Dr_McTeabag


Avatar image for Stryker521

This screams Dragon Quest xD

Avatar image for sabresfan4

i dont know about you but doesn't this look EXACTLY like battlefield heroes? (EA's still in beta play 4 free shooter) Look it up, compare, Aragorn is new playable character?! or is middle earth the newest nationality to join the fray? You tell me.

Avatar image for OnlyTbone

"We will have hardcore games that we want to differentiate from other titles based on The Lord of the Rings, and we hope to surprise consumers and fans with those titles." and after reading this. I'm actually a little excited.

Avatar image for OnlyTbone

"the publisher also noted that future LOTR games will be targeted at more adult gamers as well" thank you. This was all I was looking for. Thankfully we can at least expect something. I

Avatar image for bulletsword

looks like a hit or miss. a children's LOTR game wouldn't bother me as much if there were more "mature" LOTR games coming out as well.

Avatar image for Matthew_B

I'm close to tears, honestly I am. I guess we can say goodbye to any hope of another beat-em-up LoTR (those games rocked, even though i don't particularly like beat-em-up's) If only there were justice in this world...

Avatar image for liquidvssolid

Look at what those idiots did to Aragorn. Friggin gits! He is looking like that emo Sora!

Avatar image for aggelos6

"Gamers of all ages...". I believe , that ,since most LOTR fans are above the age of 11 , it would be wiser to make a true LOTR action game and leave Mario-copies for other franchises...

Avatar image for Greyfox327

They should give the licence over to Bio-Ware, and have them make a Baldur's Gate style game. The Lord of the Rings was all about the character and story, not the battles. I would love to play a good LotR RPG.

Avatar image for timsam19

this looks like a steaming pile of S.

Avatar image for mcarloss89

Looks like a its goin to be a good game...but it kinda looks like the Lord of the Rings are doing a cameo with kingdom hearts....lol

Avatar image for RJBL

If it was not for Aragorn's screenshot , i would swear that was another Zelda game

Avatar image for ganga_

i like the aragorn screenshot, but this game could really end up getting very nice or really bad

Avatar image for Insur_Salesman

I really hope this turns out to be a better game than it looks like it will. We've already suffered through EA's uninventive, lore-raping games, and I hope that WB doesn't continue the cycle.