In addition to Amazon’s new Lord of the Rings TV show, an all-new “AAA” video game based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s iconic fantasy franchise is on the way. The untitled project is in the works at Athlon Games, which is the video game publishing label operated by the Hong Kong based chicken meat supplier Leyou’s new video game publishing label Athlon Games.
It’s not immediately clear which studio is developing the game, as Athlon said it is working with an unspecified partner for the title.
The untitled game has an online focus, and The Hollywood Reporter describes it as an MMO (though the official press release does not say this). It’s officially described as a “completely new experience,” and one that will incorporate cooperative elements.
In terms of the story, it’s set in Middle-earth “a long time” before the events of The Lord of the Rings. The game will cover “lands, people, and creatures never before seen” in the Tolkien universe, and all of those possibilities are exciting to think about.
Athlon Games president Dave Miller, who formerly worked at Warner Bros., suggested in a statement that the new title is coming to PC and console, while it could have a games-as-a-service model. He said the game is being made to remain appealing “for years.”
There is a good reason to believe the new Lord of the Rings game will be a free-to-play title. Leyou says that while the free-to-play business model is popular, prevalent, and generally accepted in Asia, there remains “vast untapped potential” for the model in the rest of the world.
If the new Lord of the Rings game is indeed an MMO, it won’t be the first. The Lord of the Rings Online launched all the way back in 2007 and is still in operation to this day, though its ownership has changed hands.
Athlon partnered with Middle-earth Enterprises for the new game, though terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“We are extremely pleased to work with Athlon Games to create a new, immersive game experience, exploring epic regions in Middle-earth during the years leading to the events of The Lord of the Rings,” Middle-earth Enterprises licensing boss Fredrica Drotos said. “Athlon’s game will allow millions of Middle-earth fans throughout the world a unique opportunity for fellowship and epic exploration.”
Leyou Technologies owns Digital Extremes (Warframe) and Splash Damage (Gears of War 4 multiplayer), while it previously invested millions of dollars into Halo and Call of Duty co-developer Certain Affinity. As mentioned, video games are just one part of Leyou’s business. The company also operates a slaughtering and processing facility in China that is capable of processing 18 million chickens every year.