Quote of the Day – The Magic of Turbine

I admire turbine, they took perhaps the most well known IPs in fantasy and managed to make them small niche mmo

Scott Rankin, in a tweet

Isn’t that just a sarcastic stab at the heart of the truth?  And there is a whole trail of tweets on the topic if you click on the link.

When you think about it, Dungeons & Dragons and Lord of the Rings are huge IPs and ought to be cash cows if you made a decent game.

I cannot speak for Dungeons & Dragons Online, which has never clicked with me, but I really like and have enjoyed Lord of the Rings Online throughout the years.  Getting a lifetime subscription back at launch was one of my best gaming purchases.  It probably even offsets the tragic mistake of buying that Star Trek Online lifetime subscription.

And the landscape of Middle-earth looks so good in LOTRO and there are so many excellent features… I can go on and on about the music feature alone.

Music... and Anderson Cooper

Music… and Anderson Cooper

But I have to admit that things are not perfect.  The interface is still not as responsive as it ought to be nearly seven years down the road, the icons are still poor representatives of the actions they trigger, and every time I see the message, “Item use succeeded” I want to do a facepalm.  Good debug message for a programmer, not something that should be displayed in the game.  And then there is the cash shop.

And with further expansions off the table for now and layoffs and uncertainty as to what will happen between now and 2017, you really cannot help but think that things could have gone better.

Yahoo Headlines

Such promise…

I was a lot more hopeful a year back.

15 thoughts on “Quote of the Day – The Magic of Turbine

  1. Warsyde

    Lord of the Rings Online has just never clicked for me. I played it at release, and tried again after it went free to play (I much preferred the subscription version, the cash shop stuff is too invasive in a setting that really requires immersion to work for me), and it’s just a niche game that doesn’t fit for me.

    Funny you should talk about lifetime subs between LoTRO and STO — I never got a lifetime sub to LoTRO but would be kicking myself if I had. In contrast, I have no regrets over my STO lifetime purchase. Different niche . . .


  2. Pasduil

    It’s only small and niche compared to WoW, like everything is.

    And WoW’s position is unassailable except maybe by the spending of such vast amounts of money as to make no business sense at all. Like SWTOR tried,


  3. bhagpuss

    The longer we go on the more I think pre-existing IPs originating from outside video gaming are a curse not a blessing for MMOs. Name one that’s performed as well as could have been expected. Lord of the Rings, D&D, Star Wars, Warhammer, DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Lego… any of those should, in theory, have brought in numbers to challenge WoW.

    It’s a gameplay issue. People who loved watching Star Wars or reading Lord of the Rings do not necessarily want to spend hundreds of hours pressing a button on a keyboard to make an Imperial Stormrooper or an Orc fall over. There’s just no getting around that no matter how strong the IP.


  4. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Pasduil – Eh… I think LOTRO has shrunk even further than that at this point. We’re no longer headed to Mordor, we’re now making camp at Helm’s Deep until the orcs overrun us and the powers over darkness take over. LOTRO doesn’t feel like it is even holding on in a world where we ignore WoW.


  5. Whorhay

    I’m with bhagpuss on this one. When you take an existing IP from a completely different medium you have to sell the existing audience on your vision of that IP. In reality everyone visualizes characters and places they read about differently. Unless it’s Robert Jordan’s work, because he never left so much as a blade of grass or mote of dust undescribed in amazing detail. And that is just for the aesthetics of the game, you still have to design and implement a game that is fun and engaging to play over the course of years. So few published games are fun to play in that kind of time frame that it should amaze us all that WoW has stuck around so long.


  6. Pasduil

    Getting to be the gorilla in any market is a lot about happening to be in the right place at the right time with the right formula. After that it’s very hard for anyone to get even close to the entrenched market leader who will enjoy many advantages over anyone coming in.

    I’m not sure an existing IP is a curse, but it surely is not that huge of a help. I agree that loving reading Tolkien does not automatically mean you’d like to figure out skill rotations and suchlike.

    Plus there is the problem of how to reach out to all those Tolkien lovers to even let them know of the existence of the MMO. It’s not like an invite was included with the book. If you want to reach those folks to even make them aware of your MMO you will have to spend a ton on money on marketing. And if only a small proportion turn out to be interested in playing, that will be money down the drain.


  7. Pasduil

    > I think LOTRO has shrunk even further

    It has shrunk of course, but so have most things, especially those that are longer in the tooth.

    The question is whether the Quote of the Day is a fair one. i.e. Should a Tolkien MMO have been a much bigger hit than LOTRO was? And I don’t mean 30% bigger, I mean say 5 or 10 times as big as it was. That’s what I would take the quote to be suggesting.

    Based on the evidence of SWTOR, STO and such, that doesn’t seem particularly plausible.


  8. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Pasduil – Star Trek is kind of an old person IP at this point. It was meaningful to me, because I grew up with it. I wouldn’t hold that out as a first rate IP anymore.

    To me, the SWTOR experience actually suggests that LOTRO could have been bigger, maybe in the 5x range. SWTOR did move a lot of boxes and got a lot of people to subscribe. It just couldn’t hold them past a quarter or two, which is another issue. But it generated the interest and got people to log in.

    Now, did it generate the interest because of the Star Wars IP or because it was a BioWare game?


  9. Pasduil

    I can’t speak to whether Star Trek is an old person IP. I was under the impression that it was now part of the culture, and after all the new movies seemed to cause excitement, and there are plenty of conventions and what have you. Quite similar to LOTR I’d have thought in that respect.

    SWTOR I’d guess was biggish because of Bioware, earlier Star Wars RPG games laying the ground, the IP itself, and the vast amount of money spent on building and promoting it. If they had a do-over I’m not sure they would have chosen to try for so much at such expense, and they might have preferred to be smaller and more niche.

    Not that I think either Turbine or Bioware played it perfectly by any means. But if anything SWTOR’s problem was overestimating what the IP could do for them. It wasn’t going to get them WoW-like numbers, and it wasn’t going to support a subscription-only model in the long term,

    It’s maybe also important that SWTOR launched at a time when WoW subscriptions were plummeting and there were likely plenty of ex-players looking for a new thing to try. Whereas LOTRO launched when WoW was in a fast growth phase.

    Another thought to throw into the mix is that Star Wars Galaxies was small and niche too. It’s not like the IP automatically confers hugeness. Though those were different times, so comparison is difficult.


  10. Telwyn

    I have loved playing LOTRO on and off over the years but the gameplay has certainly been the reason why I take extended breaks. There’s also discontinuity between the love and care (and vision) for the game in Angmar/launch content, Moria and the later expansions. As I have slowly, stop-start-wise played through the content I think the swerves in style have sometimes left me wanting to take a break.

    If the entire game was written to the same quality and style as levels 1-50 it’d be a different story, perhaps. Mirkwood was ok, Isenguard was pretty bland and repetitive, Rohan has been better I guess but I’ve not seen enough to properly rate it.

    Turbine sadly have a tendency to introduce systems that they never perfect or fix. The housing in LOTRO is disappointing, fishing is still the only hobby, it looks like horse-combat is to be forgotten now (for good or bad), etc. However much some players love the lore and world presentation we still all experience this world through the game systems Turbine have implemented.


  11. SynCaine

    I still remember the pre-release LotRO ad saying “Come adventure with millions of others!”, because of course LotR + WoW copy = millions.

    If Turbine did an ad today, I guess they could also go with “Come adventure with millions of created characters!”.


  12. tsuhelm

    Wether the IP is A blessing or curse for a new MMO is one thing but at this time in LOTRO’s life where it has carved a small niche in the LOTR community I sometimes suspect that it may be the only thing keeping it alive…it is not exactly promoting itself that well…I had suspected they would try and tie in ‘something’ with the Hobbit movies…big miss… and as pointed out above there has never been any marketing linkage directly to the books…


  13. kiantremayne

    SWTOR launched when WoW’s subscriber numbers were past their peak. LotRO launched when WoW was still on its upward swing – basically,. SWTOR had a massively bigger base of “had a taster of MMOs but bored with WoW” to recruit players from. That may be blessing or curse, as those players proved PDQ that an awful lot of them would then get bored with SWTOR as well :)

    LotRO’s problem is that it has a rather restrictive licence – it’s the game of the books that Tolkien sold the rights to (LotR and The Hobbit), but not of all of the other stuff he didn’t, and it’s the game of the books not the movies. That means it’s target is people who are fans of the books and not just the movies, but not such deep fans that they want the stuff from the Silmarillion and the Unfinished Shopping Lists and all the other scraps of paper that Christopher Tolkien has typed up and shovelled out in order to capitalise on his father’s legacy.


  14. Pingback: LOTRO: Arglwydd Y Cylchoedd Online and Other Stuff! | tsuhelm

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