Media giant Warner Bros. has acquired independent MMO developer Turbine, creator of Lord of the Rings Online
, completing Warner's internal ownership of all Lord of the Rings-based video games.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but a Boston Globe report
pegs the purchase price as high as $160 million, based on information from "a source close to negotiation."
Warner has previously invested in Turbine, which since 1998 was heavily funded by a variety of venture capital sources. Last August, the company raised $6.6 million, and the previous year it completed a $40 million round from firms including Highland Capital, Polaris Venture Partners, Tudor Ventures, and Columbia Capital.
Turbine also develops Dungeons & Dragons Online
, which has recently seen a resurgence of activity after adopting a free-to-play model, as well as its longest-running MMO, Asheron's Call
, Warner acquired from Electronic Arts the video game rights to J.R.R. Tolkien's original literary Lord of the Rings works and the Peter Jackson film trilogy. The films themselves are also distributed by Warner Bros.
The one exception to those rights was development of MMOs based on the literary works, which are now in-house as well.
"We have been looking to expand access to our online worlds to more players and more markets," said Turbine president and CEO Jim Crowley in a statement. "This acquisition is very exciting because it allows us to expand globally while continuing to focus on creating spectacular online games that our loyal fans and players have come to expect."
Founded in 1994, Massachusetts-based Turbine had stayed independent for effectively the entire history of graphical MMOs. Its first game Asheron's Call
was released in 1999 and published by Microsoft; Turbine later reacquired all rights to the game.
Beyond The Lord of the Rings, Warner has been seeking to broaden its reach in video games for the last several years, having acquired several studios -- including a majority stake in Batman: Arkham Asylum
creator Rocksteady Studios -- as well as much of the intellectual property of bankrupt publisher Midway.