LOTRO Headed for the Grey Havens?

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.

Yahoo Headline 2007

We were so optimistic back in 2007

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 raidersDirty 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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5 thoughts on “LOTRO Headed for the Grey Havens?

  1. Mazer

    A friend linked this story last night and it was supremely depressing. Have there been any significant LotRO private servers? I can’t remember ever reading about one and a cursory google search doesn’t turn up anything promising. When can we start filing MMOs away in the Library of Congress for safekeeping?

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  2. Pingback: Bug Zapper: Turbine Edition – Kill Ten Rats

  3. Eksemplar

    I would love to have been a fly on the wall in the decision making process of this move. What line of reasoning makes you think a mediocre MMO company is the right choice for an entry into the mobile free to play market?

    I think Warner is underestimating the mobile market profoundly. For every Clash of Clans there is a million failures, and going into the market to make mobile games rather than having a game vision you want to make for the mobile platform is two very different things.

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  4. tothebreach

    Asherons’ Call will always hold a special place in my heart, it was the first MMO I played. A year ago I paid the £5 pound lifetime subscription, It was good to re-live the memories, I still prefer the game mechanics to the modern MMO’s. I also played DDO, but even though I grew up playing D&D and then AD&D I could never get into it, maybe I’m just used to playing around Waterdeep in my adventures!

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