Turbine has held the license to create an MMORPG based on the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy for years, culminating in their game “Lord of the Rings Online”. LOTRO has been running since 2007, but perhaps for not much longer, as their current license from Middle Earth Enterprises runs out in 2014 (although there is a clause that could be employed to extend it to 2017, under certain circumstances). With the end of the license coming quite soon, it is quite strange that Turbine has not yet announced an extension to that license to 2017, or perhaps even beyond that.
Odd, that is, unless you factor in “Shadow of Mordor“.
Several weeks ago, several gaming sites noticed that Turbine had registered several new URLs, which appear to be based around a product named “Shadow of Mordor”. These URLs are pointing at Turbine’s nameservers, and while clearly referencing the writings of J.R.R Tolkien, none of the URLs seem to be related to LOTRO in any way. Instead they reference a so-called “Middle Earth Game”, when previous expansions to “Lord of the Rings Online” always reference LOTRO in some way.
This reporter did some digging, and has come across some very intriguing news regarding “Shadow of Mordor”, as well as unfortunate news regarding the future of LOTRO. My sources in Turbine confirm that SoM is a new MMORPG coming from Turbine, separate and unique from LOTRO. Initially it was referred to as “LOTRO 2″, but Warner Brothers encouraged Turbine to go with the more-inclusive name “Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor”, as this game is not restricted to the LotR license alone.
No, WB has managed to obtain for Turbine the necessary licenses to create MMORPGs based on not only the LotR trilogy, but also “The Hobbit”, “The Silmarillion” and other related works by Tolkien. In short, SoM will be able to reference and include characters, locations, and events from nearly all of Tolkien’s ‘Middle Earth’ stories! Furthermore, the original license has been renegotiated to match with the new licenses, which extend out to 2030.
This is incredibly good news for Tolkien fans who have always wanted to play in a fully-inclusive ‘Middle Earth’-based MMORPG. Unfortunately, this is also very bad news for fans of Turbine’s current product, “Lord of the Rings Online”. My sources tell me that LOTRO is in the process of being sunsetted over the next 10 months, with current plans being to shut down the LOTRO servers for the last time on April 24th, 2014.
ME: SoM is expected to be a Free-to-Play MMORPG on PC, Mac, XBox One and the Playstation 4. Due to licensing conflicts, though, XBox One and PS4 players will be on their own servers, separate from those playing on the PC/Mac, and separate from each other as well. My sources at Turbine state that they are aiming for an action-based MMORPG with SoM, influenced heavily by the success of “Guild Wars 2″. They are dedicated to focusing on Story, to keep Lore fans happy, but also intend to pay greater attention to the PvP crowd than they did in LOTRO. Specifically, while open-world PvP will not be a part of SoM, there are plans to have multiple instanced areas for Player-vs-Monster-Player combat, as opposed to the sole PvMP zone LOTRO always has had (The Ettenmoors).
“LOTRO’s engine just couldn’t take more PvMP zones, but we’re using the Unity engine with SoM,” my source confided, “PvMP will be a major focus, and you can expect every iconic battle Tolkien wrote about to have a PvMP instance eventually.”
Turbine is shooting for a Q1 2014 launch for SoM, prior to LOTRO closing, but this may be delayed if necessary. My sources tell me they plan to announce SoM and the closure of LOTRO (as well as the cancellation of the previously-announced “Helm’s Deep” expansion) in the next few weeks.