A free-to-play, “massively multiplayer” online game set in J.R.R. Tolkien’s universe of hobbits, wizards and dragons is on its way from Amazon Game Studios in collaboration with Middle-earth Enterprises and Hong Kong-based interactive developer and publisher Leyou Technologies. As yet untitled (and undated), the game, says Amazon, promises players “a new, immersive game experience for epic exploration of the vast world of Tolkien.”
To be published on PC and console, the game – set prior to the events depicted in the Lord of the Rings trilogy – is unrelated to the LOTR-based TV series being developed by Amazon. The game’s development is being led by the team behind Amazon’s New World game and veteran developers whose credits include World of Warcraft, Defiance, Everquest and others.
The collaboration agreement has Amazon Game Studios and Leyou jointly developing the game, with Amazon Game Studios marketing and publishing the title globally with the exception of China, where Leyou will handle.
“Tolkien’s Middle-earth is one of the richest fictional worlds in history,” said Christoph Hartmann, VP, Amazon Game Studios, “and it gives our team of experienced MMO developers – from the same studio developing New World – tremendous opportunity to play and create. We have a strong leadership team in place to helm this new project, and we’re actively growing our team to help build this incredible experience.”
Said Alex Xu, CEO of Leyou Technologies Holdings, “Bringing Middle-earth to life necessitates having the very best partners, and Amazon’s customer obsession, technology, and talented teams make it the ideal choice for a co-developer and publisher.” He added, “We believe our combined resources and expertise will result in a beautiful and compelling game that customers will love and play for years to come.”
Fredrica Drotos, Chief Brand and Licensing Officer for Middle-earth Enterprises – a division of The Saul Zaentz Company – said her company was “delighted” with the Amazon-Leyou pairing “that will immerse us in the beloved, epic world of Middle-earth, envisioned by Professor Tolkien.”
Middle-earth Enterprises entered a licensing agreement with Leyou’s Athlon Games subsidiary last year. At the time, Athlon announced the Tolkien game but kept Amazon’s involvement under wraps.
As Deadline reported last week, Amazon Studios has hired Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom director J.A. Bayona to direct the first two episodes of the upcoming LOTR TV series. Though unrelated to the game, the series too will be set in a pre-Rings Tolkien world. The series is produced by Amazon Studios in cooperation with the Tolkien Estate and Trust, HarperCollins and New Line Cinema, a division of Warner Bros. Entertainment, which produced the 2000s Peter Jackson film trilogy.