Turbine is transitioning into a free-to-play, mobile development studio…
-Warner Bros. PR statement to Massively OP
Well fuck. It has not been a good… erm… few years for Turbine.
There was this moment of optimism a while back. They were going to bring back Asheron’s Call 2, they were going to let you run your own Asheron’s Call server, the Lord of the Rings Online contract situation was good for a couple more years and we seemed on the way to Mordor, Dungeons & Dragons Online was chugging along, upbeat and getting new stuff, and they were going to take on the hot new MOBA market with Infinite Crisis.
And then plans started falling apart. Infinite Crisis was cancelled, the Asheron twins were put on life support with what seemed to be a DNR notice, and the company was left with two somewhat long in the tooth free to play MMOs to carry things forward. LOTRO has already called out raiders. Dirty laundry was being aired. And even LOTRO’s plans seemed subdued, with server merges and fixing long standing bugs being key part of one producer’s letter. Even the upside bit, the upgraded servers, turned into a problem for a while.
But things seemed to be settling down. The servers became usable, new content was being added to the game, and a new baseline routine seemed to have been reached. And now this.
Of course, Warner is telling people to remain calm:
The Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons and Dragons online games will continue to operate as they do now.
But they HAVE to say that. Those two games are the only income generating assets Turbine has now, and to say anything else might adversely impact that income stream. And it is likely true for the short term. But what happens next?
Warner could let the two games run on as before, with even less support and unlikely to get much in the way of substantial updates. Given their new focus, that does not seem like sticking to the plan.
Warner could close the games down or, in the case of LOTRO, let the contact with Tolkien Enterprises run out in 2017 and not renew. Both LOTRO and DDO, being licensed properties, likely have monthly minimum payments required to go to the rights holders, so an immediate shut down would leave Warner with bills to pay. But at contract renewal it might be the time to walk away.
Or Warner could sell off the MMO part of Turbine to somebody like Perfect World Entertainment, where the LOTRO and DDO might each get a longer, if somewhat different, life going forward. That would keep things going, provided that either game is a viable, money making venture that Warner can hand off to another company. Anything with the name “Asheron” in the title seems to be doomed no matter what route Warner takes.
Anyway, it feels very much like we are waiting for the other shoe to drop on this one, that Warner has a long term decision to make… or announce if they have already made it… that will affect the fate of those two titles.
Play the games while you have the chance, as the future is more uncertain than usual and nobody is likely to make a game like LOTRO again.
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