Lord of the Rings MMO Coming from Amazon Games and Embracer Group

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Amazon Games and Embracer Group today announced an agreement for Amazon Games to develop and publish a new massively multiplayer online (MMO) game based on JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

The deal is the first major partnership to come to light since the Embracer Group bought the rights to Tolkien’s properties with its acquisition of Middle-earth Enterprises. Middle-earth Enterprises is now part of Embracer’s Freemode division.

The upcoming game will be an open-world MMO adventure in a persistent world set in Middle-earth, featuring the beloved stories from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings literary trilogy. the game is early
stages of production, with Amazon Games Orange County, creators of the popular open-world MMO
game New World: leading development. The announcement comes shortly after Electronic Arts released its mobile game The Lord of the Rings: Heroes of Middle-earth. Another title, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, comes from Daedalic Entertainment and its owner and co-publisher Nacon.

“We are committed to bringing gamers high-quality games, whether through original IPs or long-beloved games like The Lord of the Rings,” Christoph Hartmann, vice president of Amazon Games, said in a statement. “Bringing players a new version of The Lord of the Rings has long been an aspiration for our team, and we are honored and grateful that Middle-earth Enterprises entrusts us with this iconic world. We are also pleased to expand our relationship with Embracer Group following our deal with Tomb Raider last year, as they have proven to be excellent partners.”

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Amazon Games will publish the game globally for PC and consoles. Additional details, including launch timing, will be shared at a later date.

“The world of Middle-earth continues to prove to be fertile ground for creators, and Amazon Games is passionate about building immersive and engaging worlds and publishing games for a global audience,” Lee Guinchard, CEO of Freemode, said in a statement. “We have a clear ambition to create the highest quality entertainment products for this IP, whether we use in-house resources or partner with the best industry partners to complement our capabilities. We are doing our best to deliver an MMO that does justice to the sprawling universe of Middle-earth and delights gamers around the world.”

After spending years in the wild, Amazon Games is doing better.

The as-yet-untitled Lord of the Rings game continues Amazon Games’ growing momentum in the game.
publishing and development, following the success of its in-house developed MMO New World and Smilegate RPG’s action RPG Lost Ark, both of which have topped the Steam and Twitch charts and
continue to foster strong player communities.

Amazon has also announced publishing deals with NCSOFT for Throne and Liberty, Bandai Namco Online for Blue Protocol, Crystal Dynamics for the next big Tomb Raider game, and Glowmade and Disruptive Games for unannounced titles.

Separately, Amazon Studios produces the hit series The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Might for Prime Video, which takes place during Tolkien’s Second Age of Middle-earth and is unrelated to this upcoming one.
MMO game in development with Amazon Games. The Rings of Power has been renewed for a second season.

A previous false start

Amazon actually had a previous project based on The Lord of the Rings, but that project met an untimely death. Middle-earth Enterprises announced in 2018 that it had licensed from Athlon Games in Los Angeles to create a free-to-play game based on The Lord of the Rings. Leyou, which was later acquired by Tencent, had created Athlon Games for that project.

Then Amazon Games and Leyou announced in 2019 that Amazon would take over that project. And then that deal ended when Tencent bought Leyou and the legal landscape got complicated. So that deal is basically over and this new deal has nothing to do with it, an Amazon spokesperson said.

Middle-earth Enterprises acquired the rights to make movies, merchandise, theatrical productions and other projects, namely video games, more than 40 years ago based on Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Middle Earth Enterprises was then acquired by the Embracer Group in 2022.

Regarding the canceled game, an Amazon Games spokesperson said: “Last time, it just came down to complexities with the license. We had a deal with a Hong Kong based company, Leyou; I think it would have been great to work with them. But then they were sold to Tencent and it became very complicated. This time around, we’re building on our existing relationship with Embracer Group stemming from the Tomb Raider deal with Crystal Dynamics. We are honored to have been entrusted with an IP as iconic as The Lord of the Rings.”

Now this new deal shows that the Embracer Group is licensing games based on the Tolkien license more aggressively, and I look forward to more to come from this new corporate ownership. David Cole, an analyst at DFC Intelligence, sees the Amazon-Embracer deal as a good sign.

“The main thing I see is that Amazon is still very committed to gaming and they have some experience now,” Cole said in an email to GamesBeat. “We’re also seeing more and more movie/TV show related games and obviously Amazon has a lot of LOTR investment in that area.”

He noted that this project will be managed by the Nuevo Mundo team.

“Live service games are tough, so I hope it lives up to expectations. But I think they’ve learned some lessons about implementing those types of games that will hopefully serve them well,” Cole said. “It’s very different from traditional packaged product releases and even established publishers struggle with live service games.”

And Cole said: “Amazon, like other big players that have had setbacks, is holding its own. A big topic for our recent and future research is how companies like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft are doing lots of experiments, some of which will fail. However, that is the nature of the beast.”

Meanwhile, Piers Harding-Rolls, an analyst at Ampere Analysis, said in an email to GamesBeat that he was also impressed by Amazon Games’ steady and deliberate progress in building its game portfolio over the past 18 months.

“Now there’s good flexibility in his strategy, where he’s happy to act as publisher, co-develop, or develop completely in-house depending on the circumstances. That pragmatic approach gives it the best chance to scale to become a major player in game publishing,” Harding-Rolls said.

He added: “Amazon has been eager to develop a Lord of the Rings MMO for a few years and wants to progressively build synergies across the franchise in both video and game. Following the abandonment of the title co-developed with Leyou, this new agreement represents another opportunity to work directly with Middle-earth Enterprises and builds on the Tomb Raider partnership already secured with Embracer.”

Amazon Games has deepening experience in MMOs, he said, which means it’s in a good position to repurpose its technology and development skills to bring The Lord of the Rings to life. Console platform support is significant. For example, Final Fantasy XIV maintains a highly engaged user base on PlayStation and Xbox. While its monthly active users are much smaller than the biggest games, it remains near the top in terms of engagement. Amazon will look to tap into that engaged audience, he said.

“MMOs are going through something of a resurgence. There are quite a few new MMOs being produced and there is a feeling in some of the industry that there is an opportunity to refresh the scene and disrupt the incumbents that have dominated for many years,” said Harding-Rolls.

The release year has not yet been established. Amazon Games said it builds on its existing relationship with Embracer Group stemming from the Tomb Raider deal with Crystal Dynamics. Amazon Games will offer its full suite of publishing levers across marketing, communications, cross-platform operations, and more to make this game a success. An Amazon spokesperson said the game has nothing to do with Amazon Studios’ work on Rings of Power, which takes place during the Second Age of Middle-earth and is unrelated to the new game.

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