Amazon Games President Cristoph Hartmann Reveals Grim Details on The Cancelled Lord of the Rings MMO Game

The Lord of the Rings Franchise has been going through a lot of changes lately. First, we got the Rings of Power Series which isn’t doing all too well. During this period, Embracer Group acquired Middle-earth and Lord of the Rings. Lord of the Rings: Gollum has been delayed. And now, new information has come to light about the canceled Lord of the Rings MMO Game.

So, Why did The Lord of the Rings MMO Get Cancelled?

New insight has been provided for the canned Lord of the Rings MMO after it was well in the mid stages of its development. The company confirmed back in last April that the free-to-play console and PC title which was in co-development along with Athlon Games, a US-based subsidiary of Hong Kong-based Leyou Technologies had been axed.

lord of the rings mmo embracer group
Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring | Youtube

But what led to the cancellation of an MMO game that had been in the works for years with development nearly reaching its final stages? Insight was provided via a Bloomberg report which states that the game’s cancelation was the direct result of a dispute between the two conglomerates, Amazon and Tencent, which acquired Leyou back in December 2020.

But that’s not the only reason for the cancellation. It was in a Gamespot interview that the Amazon Games President Cristoph Hartmann clearly stated that the Lord of the Rings license holder, Middle-earth Enterprises exercised a clause in its contract which stated that the company would be allowed to terminate its rights deal in the event that one of the partners would get acquired by another entity.

We had a deal with a Hong Kong-based company, Leyou; I think it would have been great to work with them. But they later got sold to Tencent and it just got very complicated. – Hartmann

And after that, the plans for the Lord of the Rings MMO were never the same. Hartmann stated that things started to get very complicated. Amazon tried to explore new ways to continue the project with Tencent, but it never really worked out. Unfortunately, Amazon decided to walk away after failing to make headway in regard to negotiations.

The problem lay in the fact that both the companies were too big and complex to work together on a single project. This introduced loads of complications into the mix which have not been discussed. Maybe Tencent and Amazon had different directions, critiques, and opinions on the content implementations made in the Lord of the Rings MMO. Sadly, we’ll never really know the truth.

Both of the companies tried their best to continue development and effort on the now canned Lord of the Rings MMO but unfortunately, things got dragged out way too long and both companies decided it was best to ultimately put the project under wraps.

The question was, sure, maybe could have worked together with Tencent to do something, but I think we’re too big as companies to really turn into partners doing a property together where they own the license and we develop the game.

So we decided it’s better to not work together there. Then we tried to figure something out with both ends, but I think it just dragged on too long – Hartmann

The now-canceled Lord of The Rings MMO Game was originally announced back in 2018 by Athlon Games and Middle-earth Enterprises.

Athlon games stated back then that it was working closely with a partner developer to develop an online game that was set in the ages long before the events of The Lord of the Rings ever took place. Players would get a chance to explore the lands, interact with the people of the world and see creatures never before seen by fans of the Tolkien Universe.

lord of the rings mmo embracer group
The Eye of Sauron in The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring | Youtube

Although Amazon was co-developing the title, Amazon Games would’ve handled the marketing and publishing of the game globally except for China which would have been exclusively managed by Hong Kong-based Leyou.

We’ll never know what the game would’ve held for us, but we can speculate that it could’ve either been the best interpretation of the Lord of the Rings in the form of an online MMO or just your run-of-the-mill MMO. 

Future of the Lord of the Rings Games?

It was back in July 2022 that Embrace Group took a keen interest in the Lord of the Rings franchise and proceeded to initiate an acquisition contract for Middle-earth Enterprises and The Lord of the Rings series.

Embracer Group probably saw a seller in desperation and swooped in to buy the franchise and enterprise at the right moment. The CEO of Embracer Group, Lars Wingefors had this to say about the acquisition.

I am pleased to welcome an amazing group of entrepreneur-led companies to the Embracer family and to extend our portfolio with some truly remarkable IPs and franchises, including The Lord of the Rings,”

It is encouraging that our group has become a natural and preferred buyer of creative, growing, and profitable companies within Gaming and Entertainment. – Lars Wingefors, CEO of Embracer Group

The deal will basically hand the keys to Embracer Group for “a vast intellectual property catalog and worldwide rights to motion pictures, video games, board games, merchandising, theme parks and stage productions relating to the iconic fantasy literary works The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Embracer Group will be given exclusive access to develop video-games merchandise, theme parks, and motion pictures for The Lord of the Rings and Middle Earth Franchise, but there’s one thing missing in the deal and it’s the rights to the works of J.R.R Tolkien. The rights to the books and any publishing deal with them remain with Tolkien Estate and HarperCollins.

lord of the rings mmo embracer group
Embracer Group headlines its acquisition agreement with Middle-earth Enterprises | Embracer Group

Whether it be The Unfinished Tales of Numenor, The Silmarillion, and Middle Earth, all of them will stay in the hands of the Estate and HarperCollins but Embracer Group doesn’t want to give up all that easily. The Group stated that it’s interested in the publishing deals too and for that very reason, a clause was inserted that allowed Embracer Group matching rights to these works. If anyone makes an offer to the Tolkien Estate that it can’t refuse, Embracer Group has the leeway to match any of the offers made to the owners of the publications.

As for what Tencent is up to these days, things seem to be going well for the company. The Chinese conglomerate recently entered into a major strategic partnership this week with Ubisoft. It will allow Tencent to acquire a stake in Ubisoft’s family holding which will potentially allow Tencent to doubt its stake in the Assassin’s Creed publisher. This deal also includes the developmental heads-up of mobile tiles for several of Ubisoft’s major franchises too.

Although the Lord of the Rings MMO is canceled, things still seem pretty bright for the future as Private Divison had entered into a contract with Weta Workshop for the development of an untitled Lord of the Rings Game set in the Middle-earth Universe.

We are thrilled to partner with Wētā Workshop to publish a game set in such an extraordinary and celebrated universe. 

The Lord of the Rings IP is home to so many remarkable stories, and no entity is better equipped than the team at Wētā Workshop to create a distinctive, new Middle-earth gaming experience. – Head of Private Division Michael Worosz.

So, what do you think of the falling out between Tencent and Amazon Games for their canceled Lord of the Rings Project? Would you like to see another Lord of the Rings MMO in the future set in the Middle-earth Universe? Let us know in the comments below. We upload daily on Appuals, so stay tuned for more. Till then, see you later and goodbye.

Naseer Abbas
Naseer has been interested in PCs and videogames since his childhood. If he isn't busy playing retro shooters, he's tinkering with emulators or learning something new.