Warner Bros. Buys Turbine

Indulge me for some self pimpage:

Well, I’m excited!

Woah. That’s certainly news. So what happens to LotRO?

Growing game publisher further locks down Tolkien-game holdings with purchase of free-to-play MMORPG based on fantasy author’s work…

That’s not what the press release posted to the LotRO forums says. Somebody at Gamespot messed it up. This is the only mention of “free to play” from the press release, and it clearly relates to DDO, not LotRO:

Founded in 1994 and operating primarily in Boston, Turbine has created some of the most popular and exciting gaming worlds on the Internet, including Dungeons & Dragons Online®: Eberron Unlimited™, the world’s best free-to-play massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) and The Lord of the Rings Online™, the first and only MMORPG based on the books of J.R.R. Tolkien. Previously, Warner Bros. held all The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) games rights, with the exception of the literary MMO (massively multiplayer online game) rights. Now all games rights for the LOTR franchise will be unified under the Warner Bros. shield.

Warner absorbed New Line Cinema in 2008, iirc, so that maybe gives LOTRO some extra assets and freedom to incorporate further in the Tolkein world if they so desire. I can’t remember exactly what it was, but awhile back someone was asking the developers about some fairly unimportant, but still recognizable piece of LotR lore, and the dev mentioned that that particular piece of lore wasn’t part of the license they’d acquired to do the game with.

Dunno if being under the same ownership umbrella as the folks with the film rights helps them, but it can’t hurt.

Oh, and it has to be good news for Turbine, right? Warner has got to want to build and grow this franchise as much as possible, if only as a licensed piece of marketing to the films they own.

I hear they all have to learn this dance.

Strange ritual.

The discussion thread for the acquisition in the LotRO forums is not exactly brimming with optimism… The reaction isn’t universally gloomy, but there is a lot of apprehension about what this means for the future direction of the game… and for the future employment prospects of the Turbine staff.

It will still be epic, but with a dash of Chuck Jones. For example, when Aragorn meets up with his love in Rivendell…

“Oh Eowyn, you’w so wuvwy!”
“Yes I know it; I can’t help it!”
Oh Eowyn, be my wuv!

“So pleased to announce our new Facebook social game from Turbine: Shire Farmer!”

That will not happen.

Is this the same Warner Bros. that couldn’t figure out what to do with Atari back in the early 80s?



The thread on the LOTRO forums is hilarious with the anti-capitalism Lord of the Rings purist-hippies freaking out over a mega-corp buying Turbine.

Here’s the situation as I understand it: Turbine’s North American LOTRO publisher was Midway. Which is in bankruptcy. That isn’t good. LOTRO’s marketing budget is tiny as it is, but without the dollars behind a marketing push, expansions like Moria and Mirkwood don’t really stand a chance to grow the player base…just sort of try to keep current players paying and perhaps lure back lapsed subscriptions.

That’s a bad cash flow model. That’s a model that leads to layoffs and content-cutting and eventually–without someone infusing some serious bucks–the game suffering from stagnation and atrophy and more losses of employment into a downward spiral.

So Warner buys Turbine. Warner has a huge vested interest in all things Lord Of The Rings. It is one of their signature movie franchises. They’ve got tons of cash sunk into Middle Earth, and hope to continue to get people to buy Middle Earthy stuff from them for a long time to come. New Line is a producer of, and Warner’s is a distributor of The Hobbit, which will apparently be a two-part release. There are blu-ray sales of the original LOTR trilogy and the extended edition coming up. The chance to pump some marketing money into a game that’s already up and running (and running very well) just seems like a no-brainer business decision here.

I dunno if WB can help Turbine to grow the market share of LOTRO. I do think they can help them to hold the share they have and continue to add content to the game going forward and to keep up the good work Turbine’s already done, though.

Warner has picked up a lot of Midway stuff, so I guess this isn’t that surprising. It would be great to see them put a renewed effort behind it.

Agreed, it seems to me to be a positive move. I think it will also help the company to get away from VCs, and into a relationship with a company more interested in the larger, longer term picture.

I look back at Highland Capital Partners, and while they were definitely important to the company, I don’t think they knew the space as well as they could have. I recall the bonus program that they forced on the company - it’s final implementation (grudingly put into place by some of the upper management at the time) was so laughable that it’s only impact on morale was to lower it.

WB might not be perfect, but they certainly have a lot of resources that they can use to make good use of Turbine.

I just picked up LOTRO after the PAX East deal (after not having played since open beta) endoand am having just the best time with it. For me it captures something I haven’t felt in a long time and the community in-game has just been fantastic. Anything that helps extend and improve this game from its current form is greatly appreciated.

I don’t play Lotro but I don’t view this as a good thing. Huge conglomerate wouldn’t be satisfied with the sub numbers, I could see them pulling an NGE. Aren’t these the same guys that throttled internet service to some miniscule amount? They are the debbil I tell you.

I of course, am talking out of my ass. I don’t know what will happen.

Buying an MMO isn’t like buying an airplane parts manufacturer or something like that. It doesn’t make sense to buy something that survives based on the ability of the product itself to convince those who use it to keep buying it. In other words, an MMO (and the company running it) lives or dies by consumer confidence. It wouldn’t make sense for Warner to spend money to acquire an MMO company to let said company and it’s flagship product wither on the vine. Add to that baseline that the “flagship product” happens to be one of the most profitable and marketable licenses owned under the Warner umbrella and you’ve got a no-brainer here. Lord Of The Rings is a brand, and a valuable one. I would be stunned if WB would do anything to jeopardize any product they owned carrying that brand.

I get what you’re saying, triggercut, but I don’t necessarily think that it’s true. Let’s try a bit of word substitution:

Modern Warfare is a brand, and a valuable one. I would be stunned if Activision would do anything to jeopardize any product they owned carrying that brand.

Just because WB doesn’t want to do anything to jeopardize the product that they have doesn’t mean that they won’t. They are just as capable of bad decision making as any other corporation, and they’re an entirely unfamiliar one to the LOTRO playerbase. I think there’s always going to be a certain amount of wariness in the audience when an MMO switches hands, and I don’t think it’s necessarily unfounded. WB might take the approach that LOTRO isn’t making enough money in it’s current incarnation and shut it down entirely to have Turbine focus on developing a Farmville clone set in the Shire, for all we know.

It could just as easily go the other way and LOTRO could get even more awesome. I think most of the hesitance on the part of the player community comes from the fact that LOTRO is already pretty fucking kickass and constantly getting better. Things like this change, who knows if it will continue?

The only things I recall with regards to that is that different developers had licenses for the movie vs. the books, so that EA (I think) wasn’t allowed to include anything in their games that was from the extended Middle-Earth Mythology that wasn’t in the movies.