Amazon is willing to do whatever it takes to get what it can out of the parts of Middle-earth it holds—including working with the other proverbial ringbearers in the franchise’s complex web of rights-owners. And if that means trying again at the world of gaming, so be it.
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Today Amazon Games and Embracer Group—the latter of which, as the owner of Middle-earth Enterprises, has the adaptive rights to many elements of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Hobbit tales that Amazon does not through its deal to make Rings of Power—announced a partnership to develop a brand new Massively Multiplayer Online RPG set in Middle-earth.
The as-yet-untitled game will be developed by Amazon Games’ own Amazon Games Orange County studio, the team behind Amazon’s prior MMO New World, which experienced a diplomatically rocky launch. The new Middle-earth MMO will be built off the same Azoth Engine as New World, but developed in a new form that Amazon intends to “deliver something that feels distinct from New World and fitting for the world of Middle-earth. The team has some big plans for the next generation of New World’s Azoth Engine that will unlock exciting new possibilities for its take on Middle-earth.” (Unsurprisingly, they like being able to say “Middle-earth” a lot.)
This is neither the first MMO set in Tolkien’s world—Lord of the Rings Online, developed by Standing Stone Games, has been running since 2007—nor is it even the first time Amazon has announced that it’s working on a Lord of the Rings MMO. In the run up to Rings of Power’s release, Amazon announced that it would team with the Chinese developer Leyou Technologies to work on the company’s own MMO, set before the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but the deal ultimately collapsed amid Leyou’s acquisition by Chinese giant Tencent. “We were so excited to get that first opportunity to build an MMO based on one of the world’s most beloved fantasy properties, so it broke our hearts when that initial deal ultimately fell through,” Christoph Hartmann, vice president of Amazon Games, said in a press release. “We were so endeared to Tolkien’s world and the project that we never gave up on the possibility of one day bringing it back to the table. So, you can imagine our absolute delight when our friends at Embracer Group and Middle-earth Enterprises formally gave us the green light to get to work.”
Maybe this time, given a direct collaboration between two of the major rights owners of Middle-earth’s vast and complex history, things might seem better-fated to actually pan out.
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