I’ve had a little over a day to process the rather sudden and shocking news that LOTRO and DDO are being transferred to a new indie studio, Standing Stone Games, and that Asheron’s Call (and AC2) are being shuttered next month. I don’t have a cohesive essay on the subject, but rather a half-dozen internal reactions on this move.
1. Turbine is done as an MMO studio. And it might be done for good.
Once upon a time, Turbine was a shining beacon of what an indie MMO studio could be. It was blazing out titles, with two Asheron’s Call, DDO, and LOTRO. It was on the forefront of the F2P revolution. Then it sold itself to WB, started to get out of the MMO-only business by branching off into MOBAs with the disastrous Infinite Crisis, and shrunk in both size and importance. Earlier this year it made the statement that Turbine was a mobile-only studio, so I suppose offloading LOTRO and DDO logically follows that.
My prediction? Turbine’s mobile games will flop and the studio will be no more in a year or two, tops. This is EA Mythic all over again — remember that studio’s flopped MOBA (Wrath of Heroes) and flopped mobile game (Ultima Forever) and how it offloaded its MMOs to a new indie studio (Broadsword)? Turbine’s done as a relevant studio and that’s sad.
2. I’m really glad that Standing Stone is keeping the devs.
It’s the people who care about these games and have experience with them instead of a brand-new team. Business as usual, just under a new name and with perhaps less baggage? We’re already seeing a little more communication from the team about the games’ upcoming future (such as LOTRO’s avatar revamp, which sounds pretty neat).
3. I’m cautiously hopeful this is a good move for LOTRO and DDO.
Going back to indie roots, shedding the WB overhead and non-MMO side projects seems like the best possible chance for these games to succeed (or not) solely on their own merits. If Standing Stone handles the finances well and keeps it trim, tight, and hungry, I can envision a more functional studio emerging.
4. I’m a little worried about the licensing but not about Daybreak.
Both DDO and LOTRO are tied to pretty significant IP licenses. The studio said that they’re retaining the licensing relationships, but could the Tolkien Estate and Wizards of the Coast look at the now-indie studio handling these games and get cold feet? Renegotiate? I really doubt that Standing Stone will have the resources to create a brand-new MMO from scratch if they lose one or both of their titles.
Daybreak is the publisher for out-of-country operations, and here Daybreak might actually be a solid choice due to its experience in handling MMOs worldwide for decades now. But then again, it’s Daybreak. I’m not getting worked up about it.
5. All of the publicity is reviving interest in LOTRO.
Weirdly enough, LOTRO seems to be coming back into the public consciousness as of late, and not just for Standing Stone. I’ve seen more than a few people saying they want to go back, and it’s always better to see people fleeing toward a game when big news like this hits than away from.
6. I’m sincerely bummed about Asheron’s Call.
Sure, AC probably had a very, very tiny population, but this is a legacy game that goes back to the first generation of 3-D graphic MMOs. Standing Stone should have acquired it and kept the lights on — or Turbine should have made good on its word to turn the source code over to the players to allow them to make private servers. This just sours the start of a new studio.
At least there’s a new home for these players to move into: