Amazon Games has announced a new agreement with Middle-earth Enterprises, a subdivision of Freemode, to develop and publish a brand new game set in J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendary Lord of the Rings setting. Despite this announcement being pretty fresh, we know that this next venture into Middle-earth will be an MMO.
The CEO of Freemode (a subdivision of Embracer Group), Lee Guinchard, said, "the world of Middle-earth continues to prove an endlessly fertile ground for creators, and Amazon Games has a passion for building immersive, compelling worlds and publishing games for a global audience.”
In a press release describing the project, Amazon Games announced that the title would be “an open-world MMO adventure in a persistent world set in Middle-earth, featuring the beloved stories of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings literary trilogy. The game is in the early stages of production, with Amazon Games Orange County—makers of the popular open-world MMO game New World—leading development. Amazon Games will publish the game globally for PC and consoles. Additional details, including launch timing, will be shared at a later date.”
A new, old world
This is not Amazon’s first attempt to produce an MMO in J.R.R. Tolkien’s timeless setting. The studio actually canceled a previous MMO project in April 2021 due to disputes with Chinese multinational technology and entertainment conglomerate Tencent (via NME). Amazon originally had an agreement with Hong Kong-based company Leyou to develop the title, however, once Tencent acquired Leyou, Amazon Games opted to turn its back on the project.
As a fan of The Lord of The Rings, I will confess that this news makes me a little nervous. Though very ambitious, Amazon Games’ previously internally developed MMO, New World, has endured a mediocre reception, not to mention a slew of criticism for its emphasis on colonialism.
The Lord of The Rings is a myth about small acts of kindness and heroism overcoming a great evil. It has a very special place in the hearts of fans, and I would hate to see it suffer the indignity of a mediocre adaptation. The Lord of The Rings Online by Standing Stone Games (first developed by Turbine, now WB Games Boston) is a lovingly crafted and faithful recreation of Tolkien’s world – a cult classic that has been going on for 16 years. Comparisons to this heartfelt title will inevitably ensure that Amazon Games will have its work cut out for it.
However, there’s every possibility that the folks behind New World have learned valuable lessons from the title’s failures, and are in a position to craft something special. We won’t know until more details emerge.