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One MMO to bind them.

Justin Carter, Contributing Editor

May 15, 2023

2 Min Read
Main poster for New Line's Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, showing the franchise's main cast.

A new Lord of the Rings game is in the works, courtesy of Amazon Games and Embracer. 

Through the latter's Middle-earth Enterprises subsidiary, the two companies are developing a "triple-A open-world MMO" for PC and consoles. Leading development on the project will be Amazon Games' studio in Orange County, California, makers of the 2021 MMO New World.

Embracer first bought the rights to Lord of the Rings in summer 2022 as part of a larger acquisition roughly equating to $788 million. Back then, CEO Lars Wingefors was candid in saying the company would aim to "provide new opportunities" for audiences to experience the franchise, including new games and movies. 

Amazon Games VP Christoph Hartmann called the upcoming joint project a "fresh take" on the property. "[It's] long been an aspiration for our team, and we’re honored and grateful that Middle-earth Enterprises is entrusting us with this iconic world." 

With two MMOs on its plate, Amazon Games Orange County said it would continue to support New World while developing this new project. The studio said it will "build upon expertise and learnings" from that game to guide development on Lord of the Rings, while ensuring it stands as its own distinct thing.

J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy franchise has a long and storied history in video games, though it's been quiet in the console and PC space for a few years now. The last major (and non-Lego) entries were Monolith Productions' two action-stealth games, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor in 2014, and 2017's Middle-earth: Shadow of War.

Amazon continues to go all in on Lord of the Rings

For Amazon Games, this is a second shot at building a massively multiplayer Lord of the Rings. To date, the only title in that space is The Lord of the Rings Online, which has been running since 2007. 

In 2017, Amazon first bought the rights to the series to make an MMO. Though the game was announced in 2019, it wound up getting canceled two years later, partially because original developer, Leyou, was purchased by Tencent in 2020.

That also resulted in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power TV series. The show (unrelated to the upcoming game) released last year and was famously called the most expensive television series of all time. Its second season is in production amidst the current Writers Strike. 

Speaking to the potential of Lord of the Rings as a transmedia property, Lee Guinchard, CEO of Embracer's Freemode subsidiary, called it "an endlessly fertile ground for creators." 

"We have the clear ambition to create the highest-quality entertainment products for this IP," Guinchard continued, "whether we utilize internal resources or team up with the best industry partners that complement our capabilities."

About the Author(s)

Justin Carter

Contributing Editor, GameDeveloper.com

A Kansas City, MO native, Justin Carter has written for numerous sites including IGN, Polygon, and SyFy Wire. In addition to Game Developer, his writing can be found at io9 over on Gizmodo. Don't ask him about how much gum he's had, because the answer will be more than he's willing to admit.

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