How serious is Amazon’s Lord of the Rings MMO?

To be honest, it’s hard to know how serious we should be taking the announcement that Amazon’s teaming up with Leyou Tech to make a Middle-earth MMO. I mean, back when it was just a sole announcement last year from a Chinese company, it was easy to dismiss. There weren’t any solid details or screenshots or what have you, so it was just an idea.

But now? Now the situation has changed significantly, because attaching Amazon Game Studio as a co-developer adds legitimacy and possibility. Not certainty, mind you; Amazon has yet to actually launch a title, although it has cancelled one or two already. And New World, Amazon’s other MMO, hasn’t really made a lot of waves with its test cycle and “back to the drawing board” move.

Then again, Amazon is spending gobs and gobs of money on that Lord of the Rings prequel TV series, and if that’s a hit, then having a Middle-earth MMO (related to the series or not) is going to reap Amazon some nice benefits. And there is a little nervous chatter that Amazon might well see LOTRO as a threat and look to edge it out of the market to pave the way, even though it wouldn’t be a direct competitor in a lot of regards.

The best scenario for Amazon and perhaps the nightmare one for LOTRO players is one in which the company flexes its muscles to get LOTRO’s license taken away prior to the MMO coming out, and then jumps onto the scene with a cross-platform, cross-media title that may well be more about flash than substance in an attempt to appeal to a more mainstream crowd (your Shadow of Middle-earth demographic).

Obviously, it’s far too early to predict or even rationally speculate, but I cannot ignore this the way I did with Leyou’s announcement in 2018. Maybe it’ll turn out to be nothing. Maybe it’ll peacefully coexist the way DDO and Neverwinter do, and we’ll have two Lord of the Rings MMOs on the market. Maybe it’s going to be a different game entirely than what we think. But Amazon has deeply vested interest in Lord of the Rings right now, and this move cannot be a coincidence.

That makes me wonder. Hm.

6 thoughts on “How serious is Amazon’s Lord of the Rings MMO?

  1. Tanek July 17, 2019 / 10:14 am

    Some of by first jobs out of college in the 90’s were with bookstores. At one point I not only worked for one store, I also handled special orders which had me working with hundreds of other booksellers, publishers, distributors, and independent authors.

    During these years, Amazon was already the looming threat in the industry. I was able to see firsthand the tactics they would use to eliminate the competition. The least of these tactics was the ability to operate at huge losses just to price out any competition.

    Some of what Amazon did has gotten them in trouble over the years, but those were risks they were willing to take, and even with the lawsuits and fines, those risks seem to have paid off. Even today (literally, TODAY) you can find news articles about Amazon’s questionable practices when it comes to dealing with small businesses on their marketplace.

    Amazon is one of those ubiquitous things now that everyone knows about, but few give any thought beyond “a place to shop online”. But behind the scenes (and sometimes no so far behind), if you are even minimal competition and manage to get into their crosshairs, you might be in no little amount of danger, business-wise.

    Whether or not I like the game that they are developing (which, we know NOTHING about; people are already mapping all of their hopes and dreams onto it, though, which is not a good sign), what I already know about Amazon scares the second breakfast right out of me when it comes to the future of LOTRO.

  2. Roger Edwards (@ModeratePeril) July 17, 2019 / 10:29 am

    I think a contributory factor to the confusion, doubt and concern about this project is the label itself. The press need a nice simple headline and frankly the complexities of Middle-earth’s history and different ages do not lend themselves to this. Hence we are saddled with “Lord of the Rings” as a blanket term. But are we really going to get another “Lord of the Rings” MMO?

    Amazon’s TV show is potentially being set in the Second Age and may well even cover the downfall of Numenor. (All hinted by the tenuous marketing). This then potentially places things three hundred years before the Rings of Power were even forged. If the game is tied to the show, then it is not really directly to do with “Lord of the Rings” era or narrative.

    A game set in this period of Middle-earth history offers potential for a lot of combat and action of the sort you find in modern MMOs (like ESO). But as nothing is really clear at the moment, I could well be wrong in my thinking. I like to think, as you say, that two games with this IP could share the market, but Amazon likes to dominate, rather than happily co-exist. Time will tell.

  3. bhagpuss July 17, 2019 / 11:19 am

    @tanek Having worked as a bookseller for more than 20 years I’d have to say that Amazon’s negative influence on the trade has been hyped out of all recognition. I wonder what book sales, physical and digital, would be like today had Amazon never existed? And the positive improvement to service in an industry once infamous for elitism and obstructionism is off the scale. Terms of employment forbid me from being any less vague than that.

    With the New World NDA infuruatingly still in place there’s also very little I can add to that side of the discussion, except to say that a more suitable cross-fertilization than that game and LotRO is hard to imagine. As Roger suggest, it’s very likely the game, if an when it happens, wil be too action-oriented for my personal tastes but I have every confidence it will be a fine MMO.

    As for it affecting LotRO, I would guess it might leech a few players but if it’s any good it will be a rising tide. LotRO’s bigger problem, I think, is how very badly it’s aging.

  4. Tanek July 17, 2019 / 11:30 am

    @bhagpuss My comments were not so much about the bookselling trade as a whole. I was talking about the negative influence Amazon can have on individual businesses within that trade when they want to.

    As for LOTRO aging, that may very well be the case. And if the new game comes out and is good enough to take players away and LOTRO ends up closing down because of fair competition? I’m not going to say I’ll be happy it is gone, but at least it would have had a shot.

    I just don’t want to see the case where amazon strong-arms the license away from LOTRO and kills it off that way.

  5. Jeromai July 17, 2019 / 8:02 pm

    If there’s a newer, shinier, more compelling MMO that looks visually better (like New World aesthetic standard), Amazon won’t even have to risk negative backlash by doing anything strongarm about LOTRO. They can just leave it there for comparison.

    Anyone the slightest bit attracted to something newer and shinier has already dropped the immensely aging and unwieldy LOTRO like a hot potato years ago. Only the faithful stalwarts (those attracted to lore, music and community) are left by now. Those are not people you want to piss off, kicking them out of their home will make them rain on your parade like pissed-off City of Heroes players.

    If the new MMO is any good, word of mouth will erode the LOTRO population steadily, kinda like how Amazon as a company just stole market share away from brick and mortar bookstores by simply existing and doing things their way.

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