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The Future of LotRO, post Turbine

MendelMendel Member LegendaryPosts: 5,499
I am going to speculate a bit here, but hopefully, some might find it useful.

Since Turbine/Warner are scheduled to lose the rights to the LotR IP rights for role playing games in November of 2017, I started thinking of some possible scenarios for the future of the LotRO game currently running past that date.  The current situation (layoffs) between Turbine and Warner Brothers Interactive seems to be a precursor for dissolving Turbine, or getting out of the MMORPG marketplace entirely.  Here are some of the possible scenarios that I've thought of.  Note:  I am focusing on the game, not the company producing the game.
  • LotRO ends.  Maybe the most likely option.  The Tolkien estate decides not to renew this license to anyone, and Turbine/Warner are forced to close the game, since no one would likely buy the game for the duration (now through Nov 2017).
  • New Ownership.  Same game, but the Tolkien estate sells the rights to a company outside of Turbine/Warner.  This new rights holder negotiates to purchase the existing game from Turbine/Warner.  Game continues from the current implementation.
  • Renewed License.  Turbine/Warner and Tolkien renew the rights for the game, and everything continues as the game is currently operating.  I don't get the feeling that either of the current parties want this kind of arrangement.
  • Game rebooted.  A new development company, with a new license agreement with the Tolkien estate appears and builds a new game.  To bridge the gap between the current game and a new game, there could be a temporary extension of the current license on the current game, either by Turbine/Warner or this new company.
The last option is probably the most flexible, and my personal favorite.  Hopefully, a new situation would walk away from some of the problems and questionable business decisions (lifetime subscription).

Are there other possibilities that I may have missed.

Logic, my dear, merely enables one to be wrong with great authority.

«13

Comments

  • LithuanianLithuanian Member UncommonPosts: 507
    Modified choice number 3:
    Warner/Turbine renew licence to produce single/mmo games based on Lord of the rings.
    Reason: if we can make single-player games, why not get money from them? And future DLC too...
    Possible logic choices:
    a) Lotro is put on eternal maintenance mode. Game is still online, maybe even with 1 programmer to maintain it.;
    b) Lotro goes offline. Gandalf the Grumpy tells "bye bye noobz, time for me  to smoke week and send another pair of Hobbitses to Mordor" and that's it.

    I am not sure about exact terms of licence. If it covers *any* game, be it online (mmo) or offline (single player) -then yes, WB would do everything to renew and produce single player games. If it covers mmo only, they may renew licence. You know, just to be sure competitors won't grab it and make something.
  • waynejr2waynejr2 Member EpicPosts: 7,768
    How about an in-game event: Boats to the Undying Lands?
    http://www.youhaventlived.com/qblog/2010/QBlog190810A.html  

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  • cormachcormach Member UncommonPosts: 98
    Do you have a source for the IP not being renewed? 
  • ceratop001ceratop001 Member RarePosts: 1,594
    This is a classic and well respected game. Hope the outcome is good.
     
  • Po_ggPo_gg Member EpicPosts: 5,749
    edited July 2016
    Speculate here as well (obviously, since we don't know the background :wink: ), but I think your starting parameters are off...

    The Estate has grudges with mostly anyone outside the fences, that's true. However, it doesn't really matter in this case, since the licensing is between Turbine/WBE and SZC.

    "...are scheduled to lose the rights..." I think they will renew it. That was the whole point of purchasing Turbine (allegedly, of course). WBE launched quite a couple LotR games after the purchase (lastly that crappy assassin's creedor), there's one in the pipe as well (again, allegedly), plus they like to keep the rights in one place.


    But, of course, those two corrected parameters wouldn't change LotRO's future either :wink:  Based on the announcement after the last layoff, they want to re-focus Turbine onto the mobile market. Sure, they're planning to keep the games on schedule, and Turbine already presented in the last two years, that they can release Updates even with a reduced crew.
    (sidenote, quality may drop, like the last Stable-master thingy which already needs a hotfix because it's in the game, just not working - at all :lol:  )

    So, will LotRO stay open after 2017? It's up to the negotiations I think. If Turbine manages to nudge the positions in a way that the license keeping requires LotRO up and running (since they "brought" it to the big happy WBE family), then LotRO will stay for a long time, maybe even beats AC's time :wink:  but I'm sure after Mordor there won't be much more updates, just maintenance and fixes.
    If Turbine has less weight, or the beancounters at WBE see they can scrape off a slight sum of the licensing fee that way, they will axe the game for sure if it won't bring profit to the table to compensate the sum. Luckily they're not Ncsoft :wink:  so if it brings the numbers, probably it remains.


    The license will stay, I'm pretty sure about that... and I admit, I really don't want to see a Turbine-developed LotR mobile game, with microtransactions :lol:

    edit: and of course we won't hear anything about it until it's signed / decided. Just like the previous time, both WBE and SZC will keep things at the table right until the end, without any leaks. And there will be wild guesses and articles, I think starting from 2017 Spring, just like the previous time :wink:
  • MendelMendel Member LegendaryPosts: 5,499
    I just don't see a long term future with Turbine.  There's already tension between Warner and Turbine, as evidenced by the recent decision to focus on mobile games.  That alone might disrupt any future plans for Turbine as a player in the MMORPG market.

    But I think the bigger issue might simply be relations with the Tolkien estate.  They have been notoriously protective of their IP.  I get the feeling that they aren't overly happy with the LotRO product.  I believe that the Tolkien estate thinks that there were simply too many liberties taken with the lore (IP).   Renewing the IP with Turbine/Warner will almost assuredly come with a premium price tag, and may be less expensive for a different company to pick up the rights.  It reminds me a lot of the situation between SOE and Lucas Arts over SWG.  Lucas Arts weren't happy with the product delivered by SOE, and the IP rights were promptly retracted, only to be issued to other game development companies.

    The relationship between the Tolkien estate and Saul Zaentz Co (the actual rights holder) has been very contentious, with significant lawsuits ($80 million) being filed against each party as recently as 2013 (http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/warner-bros-claims-tolkien-estate-428390).  The issues of contention have included and impacts movies, online games and gambling games.  If there is ever going to be a time for the Tolkien estate to step away from this entanglement, it will surely coincide with the expiration of the current licensing extension (http://www.ign.com/articles/2014/01/14/lord-of-the-rings-online-license-renewed-to-2017).  There were rumors of LotRO being shut down at the last license renewal, so there was some evidence then of displeasure with Turbine/Warner and their interpretation of the IP.

    It has always been difficult to predict what the Tolkien estate will do.  The constant litigation and impending IP rights renewal seem to indicate that the future of LotRO may be on shaky foundations.  I feel it's a very good bet that the Tolkien estate will take the opportunity to control their IP by simply walking away from Zaentz, Warner and Turbine.

    Logic, my dear, merely enables one to be wrong with great authority.

  • H0urg1assH0urg1ass Member EpicPosts: 2,380
    Shadow of Mordor 2 is all but confirmed at this point with people reportedly doing mocap and voice work for it as of early this year.

    I would say that WB is going to hold onto the IP. There's still a lot that they can do with it. But then again, the company that owns the IP, Middle Earth Enterprises, may decide that they don't want to lease it to WB. I'm not sure what the contract looks like. If it's one of those ridiculous contracts like Marvel has with half of the Marvel universe and Fox, where its dependent upon content, then WB could do a shitty FF4 type deal where they toss a bone every few years to keep the rights.
  • JermzyJermzy Member UncommonPosts: 211
    Game will end, something new will begin.
    Haroo!
  • danwest58danwest58 Member RarePosts: 2,012
    Its time to just shut down the game.  There are so many MMOs on the market that making money is now near impossible unless you make something on the cheap side and put P2W in the game.  
  • psychosiz1psychosiz1 Member UncommonPosts: 199
    If they do shut the game down, I certainly hope they bring back LOTR in some capacity as updated mmo.
  • Po_ggPo_gg Member EpicPosts: 5,749
    H0urg1ass said:
    Shadow of Mordor 2 is all but confirmed at this point with people reportedly doing mocap and voice work for it as of early this year.
    That's what I referred to as well, though I think "in the pipes" is more appropriate since there was no official announcement I think.

    And agree with the rest too, said the same. What Mendel says is all correct (Estate doesn't like the handling of LotR, there are lawsuits since a decade, etc.) but I'm on the opinion that it's all irrelevant for LotRO's future.

    The rights are at SZC, and unless something landslide-magnitude change won't happen, they will hold the rights for a long time. Not to mention both sides are so big, that a "simple walk away" solution is highly unlikely, even if the Estate can achieve something they couldn't over the years, the best they can earn is some mutual common ground in the middle - and then they have to start the re-negotiations with all the contracted partners one by one... not a process they can close very fast. Especially not within a year, when the WBE/SZC deal will (or will not, since we're just guessing) be signed, and after that there's a living contract to deal with...
    But I don't think that will happen, based on the outcomes of the lawsuits so far. As I said, I think SZC will have the rights for a long time more. Not saying that's a good or bad thing, I respect CT for what he did with the editing, the publishing... I'm just saying it as a highly probable outcome, regardless of the lawsuits.

    I also think WBE wants to keep up the license, and if they do, they're in decent conditions with SZC, so the deal won't be an issue.
    But, securing the license means nothing for LotRO's future I think :wink:  WBE can shut it down even if they have the license in their pocket. Or they can keep it alive. We'll see a year from now.
  • craftseekercraftseeker Member RarePosts: 1,740
    Mendel said:
    I just don't see a long term future with Turbine.  There's already tension between Warner and Turbine, as evidenced by the recent decision to focus on mobile games.  That alone might disrupt any future plans for Turbine as a player in the MMORPG market.

    But I think the bigger issue might simply be relations with the Tolkien estate.  They have been notoriously protective of their IP.  I get the feeling that they aren't overly happy with the LotRO product.  I believe that the Tolkien estate thinks that there were simply too many liberties taken with the lore (IP).   Renewing the IP with Turbine/Warner will almost assuredly come with a premium price tag, and may be less expensive for a different company to pick up the rights.  It reminds me a lot of the situation between SOE and Lucas Arts over SWG.  Lucas Arts weren't happy with the product delivered by SOE, and the IP rights were promptly retracted, only to be issued to other game development companies.

    The relationship between the Tolkien estate and Saul Zaentz Co (the actual rights holder) has been very contentious, with significant lawsuits ($80 million) being filed against each party as recently as 2013 (http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/warner-bros-claims-tolkien-estate-428390).  The issues of contention have included and impacts movies, online games and gambling games.  If there is ever going to be a time for the Tolkien estate to step away from this entanglement, it will surely coincide with the expiration of the current licensing extension (http://www.ign.com/articles/2014/01/14/lord-of-the-rings-online-license-renewed-to-2017).  There were rumors of LotRO being shut down at the last license renewal, so there was some evidence then of displeasure with Turbine/Warner and their interpretation of the IP.

    It has always been difficult to predict what the Tolkien estate will do.  The constant litigation and impending IP rights renewal seem to indicate that the future of LotRO may be on shaky foundations.  I feel it's a very good bet that the Tolkien estate will take the opportunity to control their IP by simply walking away from Zaentz, Warner and Turbine.
    You left out one very important detail, at the moment the Tolkien Estate is controlled by Christopher Tolkien. He is 91. At some time control of the estate will pass to someone else, perhaps to a group of people they may have quite different views.
  • AmatheAmathe Member LegendaryPosts: 7,630
    If they do shut the game down, I certainly hope they bring back LOTR in some capacity as updated mmo.
    Lord of the Rings is ageless and timeless. It will be made into games again and again and again. That does not mean it will happen anytime soon. But it will happen. 

    EQ1, EQ2, SWG, SWTOR, GW, GW2 CoH, CoV, FFXI, WoW, CO, War,TSW and a slew of free trials and beta tests

  • MendelMendel Member LegendaryPosts: 5,499
    You left out one very important detail, at the moment the Tolkien Estate is controlled by Christopher Tolkien. He is 91. At some time control of the estate will pass to someone else, perhaps to a group of people they may have quite different views.
    Christopher Tolkien is old.  He also holds a grudge against Warner for what Peter Jackson did with the lore in his movies.  I think the rest of the family members are strongly influenced by what he thinks and does.  Even if he were suddenly out of the picture, I don't really know if things would change radically.  After all, under his watch, the Tolkien Estate has made more money than most people could imagine.  That kind of success is difficult to just put aside and do things differently.

    I'm sure things will eventually change with the Tolkien estate, @craftseeker.  I just don't see significant change happening anytime soon.

    Logic, my dear, merely enables one to be wrong with great authority.

  • delete5230delete5230 Member EpicPosts: 7,007

    The bottom line:

    a) Keep LOTRO as is and it will only appeal to the population it has now.

    b) Sell it off, I'm sure at a high price, and the cash shop will run it into the ground.

    c) Give it away totally free, bring it back to Vanilla, charge a sub ( will not happen ).

    In other words.......Game over ! 

  • ScotScot Member LegendaryPosts: 19,889
    Considering the way Times-Warner works keeping the Lotro rights and closing the game is likely. They might also decide to run it with minimal staff, no content updates etc. But the later is the less likely option. Sad times.
  • SpottyGekkoSpottyGekko Member EpicPosts: 6,916
    I'd guess it all depends on how much LOTRO counts in the price of the licence renewal.

    WB will undoubtedly renew their license, they are making money off of it, just not much via LOTRO.

    For instance, say LOTRO is contributing only 25% of WB's total revenue from the license. If WB can get a significant price reduction on the license by dropping LOTRO, they may shut it down, because overall it would increase their ROI.

    I expect LOTRO will remain open for business, but that it will increasingly be milked while being fed less and less. Eventually the cow will die...
  • Starbuck1771Starbuck1771 Member UncommonPosts: 375
    This is a classic and well respected game. Hope the outcome is good.
    It isn't going to be good. Right now they are spread so thin that Rob Ciccolini  is doing tripple duty as executive producer for Asherons call, DDO, & Lotro. His lack of communication on the LOTRO forums speaks volumes. WB, Turbine, and Rob himself all failed to announce him as the EP and the fact that Athena Peters was no longer the EP for LOTRO. Vyvyanne is now the EP for Batman Arkham Underworld Turbines upcoming mobile game. I had to get the info from Athena via facebook personalty. She said Rob has been EP of LOTRO for a couple of months now. So things are not looking good for LOTRO or any of Turbines MMO's right now. 

    image
  • Starbuck1771Starbuck1771 Member UncommonPosts: 375
    DMKano said:
    My prediction 

    It ends - not so much due to license issues but due to declining revenue. 

    It's always about how much money is coming it to keep it running and paying developers to add content.
    I think the sound of the bells toll is growing louder each day.




    Yeah the future of LotRO and DDO are looking pretty grim at this time.

    image
  • FrodoFraginsFrodoFragins Member EpicPosts: 5,642
    edited July 2016
    Mendel said:

    • LotRO ends.  Maybe the most likely option.  The Tolkien estate decides not to renew this license to anyone, and Turbine/Warner are forced to close the game, since no one would likely buy the game for the duration (now through Nov 2017).

    The Tolkien Estate doesn't have ANYTHING to do with the LOTR or Hobbit film or video game licenses.  zip, zero, zilch, nada.

    The license comes from Middle Earth Enterprises which has nothing to do with the estate.  JRR completely sold those rights in 1968.  The tolkien Estate can only nix products through legal battles if they feel they violate the original terms.

    LOTRO will end.  the only other possibility is that WB renews the license to start a new MMO and is able to keep LOTRO running until the new one is released.  Just like how SWG closed right before SWTOR was released.

  • MendelMendel Member LegendaryPosts: 5,499
    Mendel said:

    • LotRO ends.  Maybe the most likely option.  The Tolkien estate decides not to renew this license to anyone, and Turbine/Warner are forced to close the game, since no one would likely buy the game for the duration (now through Nov 2017).

    The Tolkien Estate doesn't have ANYTHING to do with the LOTR or Hobbit film or video game licenses.  zip, zero, zilch, nada.

    The license comes from Middle Earth Enterprises which has nothing to do with the estate.  JRR completely sold those rights in 1968.  The tolkien Estate can only nix products through legal battles if they feel they violate the original terms.

    LOTRO will end.  the only other possibility is that WB renews the license to start a new MMO and is able to keep LOTRO running until the new one is released.  Just like how SWG closed right before SWTOR was released.

    You're getting that from Wikipedia.  I think you might want to look beyond that source.  There have been massive legal battles between the Tolkien estate and Saul Zaentz and his various companies.  The claim of 'selling video gaming rights in 1968' is highly suspect in any case, as there really wasn't a concept of video games in 1968.  That has been an ongoing point in their litigation, with the 2012 lawsuit pertaining to explicit digital rights, which the Tolkien estate maintains was not included in the 1969 rights arrangements, claiming at one point the various Zaentz licensees “engaged in a continuing and escalating pattern of usurping rights to which they are not entitled.”

    In any case, United Artists licensed the movie, stage and merchandising rights in 1968.  Those are the rights that Saul Zaentz acquired, and the company, Middle Earth Enterprises, still licenses those. The video game rights were first licensed to Vivendi Universal Interactive in 2002 and passed to Warner Brothers in 2009.

    Now, finding information about the Saul Zaentz Company (a private company) is incredibly difficult.  I can't verify if Zaentz 'owns' the rights outright (and in perpetuity), or pays something to the Tolkien estate.  Certainly, the Tolkien estate seems to act as if they maintain some degree of direct control over the IP.

    It's a matter for the lawyers at this point.

    Logic, my dear, merely enables one to be wrong with great authority.

  • SoloAnythingSoloAnything Member UncommonPosts: 308
    edited July 2016
    I love the books/lore/movies and the game pre f2p. If they end this and make a new Lotro mmo I'll be there for day one.
  • FrodoFraginsFrodoFragins Member EpicPosts: 5,642
    edited July 2016
    Mendel said:
    Mendel said:

    • LotRO ends.  Maybe the most likely option.  The Tolkien estate decides not to renew this license to anyone, and Turbine/Warner are forced to close the game, since no one would likely buy the game for the duration (now through Nov 2017).

    The Tolkien Estate doesn't have ANYTHING to do with the LOTR or Hobbit film or video game licenses.  zip, zero, zilch, nada.

    The license comes from Middle Earth Enterprises which has nothing to do with the estate.  JRR completely sold those rights in 1968.  The tolkien Estate can only nix products through legal battles if they feel they violate the original terms.

    LOTRO will end.  the only other possibility is that WB renews the license to start a new MMO and is able to keep LOTRO running until the new one is released.  Just like how SWG closed right before SWTOR was released.

    You're getting that from Wikipedia.  I think you might want to look beyond that source.  There have been massive legal battles between the Tolkien estate and Saul Zaentz and his various companies.  The claim of 'selling video gaming rights in 1968' is highly suspect in any case, as there really wasn't a concept of video games in 1968.  That has been an ongoing point in their litigation, with the 2012 lawsuit pertaining to explicit digital rights, which the Tolkien estate maintains was not included in the 1969 rights arrangements, claiming at one point the various Zaentz licensees “engaged in a continuing and escalating pattern of usurping rights to which they are not entitled.”

    In any case, United Artists licensed the movie, stage and merchandising rights in 1968.  Those are the rights that Saul Zaentz acquired, and the company, Middle Earth Enterprises, still licenses those. The video game rights were first licensed to Vivendi Universal Interactive in 2002 and passed to Warner Brothers in 2009.

    Now, finding information about the Saul Zaentz Company (a private company) is incredibly difficult.  I can't verify if Zaentz 'owns' the rights outright (and in perpetuity), or pays something to the Tolkien estate.  Certainly, the Tolkien estate seems to act as if they maintain some degree of direct control over the IP.

    It's a matter for the lawyers at this point.
    No I've looked into it.  And if you did you'd realize that

    1) The tolkien estate has never licensed a game for the properties they actually have rights to like the silmarillion
    2) Christopher tolkien would never license his father materials for games if he had those rights.  Never in a million years.
    3) Find a single case where a movie maker or game dev worked with the estate - you wont find it - they get approval from MEE which has no conenction to the estate

    Stop spreading misinformation.  MEE is attached to all licensed games - not the tolkien estate
  • FrodoFraginsFrodoFragins Member EpicPosts: 5,642
    edited July 2016
    -- ignore --
  • lahnmirlahnmir Member LegendaryPosts: 4,934
    Mendel said:
    Mendel said:

    • LotRO ends.  Maybe the most likely option.  The Tolkien estate decides not to renew this license to anyone, and Turbine/Warner are forced to close the game, since no one would likely buy the game for the duration (now through Nov 2017).

    The Tolkien Estate doesn't have ANYTHING to do with the LOTR or Hobbit film or video game licenses.  zip, zero, zilch, nada.

    The license comes from Middle Earth Enterprises which has nothing to do with the estate.  JRR completely sold those rights in 1968.  The tolkien Estate can only nix products through legal battles if they feel they violate the original terms.

    LOTRO will end.  the only other possibility is that WB renews the license to start a new MMO and is able to keep LOTRO running until the new one is released.  Just like how SWG closed right before SWTOR was released.

    You're getting that from Wikipedia.  I think you might want to look beyond that source.  There have been massive legal battles between the Tolkien estate and Saul Zaentz and his various companies.  The claim of 'selling video gaming rights in 1968' is highly suspect in any case, as there really wasn't a concept of video games in 1968.  That has been an ongoing point in their litigation, with the 2012 lawsuit pertaining to explicit digital rights, which the Tolkien estate maintains was not included in the 1969 rights arrangements, claiming at one point the various Zaentz licensees “engaged in a continuing and escalating pattern of usurping rights to which they are not entitled.”

    In any case, United Artists licensed the movie, stage and merchandising rights in 1968.  Those are the rights that Saul Zaentz acquired, and the company, Middle Earth Enterprises, still licenses those. The video game rights were first licensed to Vivendi Universal Interactive in 2002 and passed to Warner Brothers in 2009.

    Now, finding information about the Saul Zaentz Company (a private company) is incredibly difficult.  I can't verify if Zaentz 'owns' the rights outright (and in perpetuity), or pays something to the Tolkien estate.  Certainly, the Tolkien estate seems to act as if they maintain some degree of direct control over the IP.

    It's a matter for the lawyers at this point.
    But but but, he is frigging Frodo! If anyone knows a thing or 2 about Lord of the Rings it is surely him  ;)

    /Cheers,
    Lahnmir


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    It is just huge resource waste....'

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