Amazon has sent its free-to-play Lord of the Rings game off to the Undying Lands.
The news broke over the weekend, via a report in Bloomberg, that Amazon had quietly pulled the plug on its LOTR MMO, which it had been attached to as co-developer and -publisher since July 2019.
The abrupt cancellation is apparently due to an unspecified dispute between Amazon and Chinese technology conglomerate Tencent, which acquired Amazon’s previous development partner Leyou in December of last year. We’ve reached out to Amazon for comment.
While this isn’t necessarily a black eye for Amazon — sometimes deals fall through — it’s another well-publicized setback for its efforts to break into the video game industry.
It’s also recently had to delay the launch of its open-world MMO New World by several months, and last year, it launched, de-launched, and subsequently canceled its AAA hero shooter Crucible.
According to a deep-dive into Amazon Game Studios from Bloomberg in January, Amazon has been spending almost half a billion dollars a year on internal video game development, but mismanagement and misunderstanding have kept it from establishing a foothold in the games industry.
This hasn’t kept Amazon from continuing its efforts, however. Last month, it opened a new studio in Montreal, headed up by several lead developers from Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six franchise, that’s intended to focus on multiplayer games.
To avoid confusion, canceling the LOTR MMO does not affect Amazon’s forthcoming Lord of the Rings TV series, a prequel to the novels and films that’s said to be the “largest television series ever made.” It also has nothing to do with Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO), which has been running since 2007 and is currently published by Daybreak Games Company in San Diego.
Amazon’s unnamed LOTR MMO was initially announced in Sept. 2018 by the Hong Kong-based Leyou Technologies and its newly-founded American subsidiary Athlon Games. Like the Amazon TV series, the MMO was said to be set well before the events of The Lord of the Rings, “exploring lands, people and creatures never seen before by fans of the Tolkien universe.”
(By comparison, LOTRO was initially set during the War of the Ring, with players explicitly supporting men, elves, and dwarves in their fight against Sauron’s forces. LOTRO has since moved on to new adventures set in post-war Middle-Earth, and has a new expansion planned to arrive later this year.)
Amazon later came aboard the new LOTR MMO project as a development partner with Athlon and Leyou. The deal would’ve seen Amazon publish the MMO worldwide, while Leyou published it in China and Taiwan. That deal didn’t survive Leyou’s acquisition by Tencent, for reasons that have yet to be disclosed.