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What is in the Future for LOTRO? April 22, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Lord of the Rings Online.
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Lord of the Rings Online is in the midst of its six year anniversary celebrations.

Six Years of Middle-earth

Six Years of Middle-earth

Six years ago Vanguard was sputtering along, with Brad McQuaid speaking up about all the problems as I was speculating on how they might get out of their mess. (And two of those came to pass.)  I was past level 50 in EverQuest II with a fae, the new race that came along with the Echoes of Faydwer expansion. I was also playing with our brand new Wii.  And Potshot and I were becoming immersed in Lord of the Rings Online for the first time, an MMO that was getting some buzz.

Yahoo Headlines

Yahoo Headlines

The timing was about right for us, as the instance group was on something of a hiatus as Earl moved from one coast to another and set up shop in the big city.  The four of us who jumped in started what would become a recurring pattern of play in Middle-earth.

At some point, somebody would be unable to play for an extended time and the remaining four of us would roll up fresh characters on a new server.  Generally classes and such had changed enough that we really needed the fresh start to build up characters.  We would get up to about level 30 or so in the Lone Lands, and then taper off as the fifth person in the group joined back up, leaving us out of sync in Middle-earth.

And so our adventures would end, never having reached Rivendell as we headed back to Azeroth or Telara.

And even those occasional wanderings in LOTRO appear to be at an end for our group, as it has been vetoed for further play by one of the group members.  So far only LOTRO and EverQuest II are on the explicit veto list.

The group only ever made it into the end phase of the Lone Lands, while I only ever made it part way into Moria.  And that may be the furthest any of us ever get.

And while part of that is because of our past experience, another aspect is the future of LOTRO itself.

A little over five years ago there was the announcement that Turbine and Tolkien Enterprises had signed an agreement to extend the licensing for the game out to 2014.  That seemed way out in the future… but now it is next year.  And what will happen then?  There was an option on the agreement to extend the deal to 2017, but I imagine that both parties have veto power on that.  Things have changed since 2008.

Since that agreement was signed, Turbine was been acquired and folded into Warner Brothers Home Entertainment.

And I am not sure how that will affect things.

On the one hand, Warner has other license agreements with Tolkien Enterprises which have lead to some lucrative and fun games, such as LEGO Lord of the Rings.

On the other hand, the Tolkien estate has also felt the need to sue Warner for misuse of the Tolkien IP.  And since Warner are no doubt be the ones doing the negotiating for LOTRO now, you have to wonder if that bad blood will color things.

It seems likely that the game is good until 2017, but all of that still makes you wonder.  Especially when Turbine suddenly decided to pull Asheron’s Call 2 out of cold storage late last year.  Is that a sign that they are worried, that they have nothing else viable in the works, or that they just have plenty of free time on their hands?

How much longer do you think we have for LOTRO?

It is like Star Wars Galaxies or The Matrix Online in that, as a licensed IP, when it ceases to be profitable… or of interest to the licensing entity… it will go away, never to be seen again.

Comments»

1. Chaosrook - April 22, 2013

I am in a similiar boat, having bought the platium edition, the steam edition, and a multitude of slots and sudries after trying it soon after it went F2P…so soon after I sank my teeth into it finacially…I seem to have lost my taste for it. I just cant seem to bring myself to do much more then ride around the shire for a few minutes before I decide to log of. I had grown tired of WOW and thought that it would be a good alternative…and here yet not having progressed past 20th level in my case. I would strive forth this day and endeaver to see the wonders which I have mist but my father has just provided me a copy of Guild Wars 2 and the call of the Paladin (I eh uh mean Guardian) seems irresistable at this point. Maybe tomorrow then…maybe tomorrow.

2. HarbingerZero - April 22, 2013

My little mini-group has been tromping through LoTRO for awhile actually, thought I’ve yet to write it up. I’m not sure in a market where everyone else allows you to quest for free that you can continue to charge for that kind of “basic” content. If they do want to stay around longer, it might be time for a shakeup in the model.

3. Mekhios - April 22, 2013

I personally think LOTRO is one of the better MMO’s. It pioneered a number of unique MMO features and offered some excellent storylines. The graphics were very advanced and still measure up quite well to the cartoon graphics of WoW or the barren landscapes of EQII. The graphical level has only now been surpassed by GW2.

I have a lifetime membership and would hate to see it die. It is still the MMO I return to when I tire of other MMO’s. I am also a member of a social guild on Elendilmir that has never really stopped playing the game since beta.

I am hoping there is some way of extending the IP until such time as it is replaced by another LOTRO MMO. I do not see the point of cancelling the licensing agreement when the game does still make money.

4. Green Armadillo - April 23, 2013

“There was an option on the agreement to extend the deal to 2017, but I imagine that both parties have veto power on that.”

That’s one scenario – in sports terms it’d be called a mutual option, possibly with some sort of cash payout if the option is declined. Another scenario is that plan A is for Turbine and Tolkien Enterprises to negotiate an extension and never use the option but plan B is that Turbine (now WB) can pay some higher rate with TE agreeing in advance not to veto the option because the terms are favorable.

I think this fall’s Helm’s Deep expansion is the literal Helm’s Deep for the LOTRO team – they need this fall’s sales to justify to their new owners that they are worth the continued investment. If sales are bad, I would not be surprised to see the plug pulled in 2014. Meanwhile, at least as of a year ago, Turbine had a new game in development using their in-house engine (which runs AC2, DDO, and LOTRO), and I do NOT think this is the new DC MOBA game. Considering that Turbine’s two best selling titles at the moment are a licensed IP which could expire soon and a second licensed IP that somehow became non-exclusive to allow Neverwinter to happen, and I could see a strong business case for having AC3 be the mystery MMO project.

5. Erich Holden - June 13, 2013

OK, I’ll be nice, but the negatives are starting to outweigh the positives. The game is declining, the stability issues are aggravating (the game engine is 6 years old…), and player interest is waning. That’s not being negative, it’s just the truth. Meaningful content and addressing the issues they need to would go far to restoring interest. Another reality is that there are smaller companies that will give the consumer more because they are trying to make a name for themselves, and are able to take input and criticism from the players to make things better.


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