Amazon Games boss explains why its Lord of the Rings MMO was cancelled
Christoph Hartmann thinks Amazon and Tencent were “too big” to work together on the game
The head of Amazon Games has provided some new insight into why the company’s Lord of the Rings MMO was cancelled after several years in development.
The company confirmed last April that the free-to-play console and PC title, which it had been co-developing with Athlon Games, a US subsidiary of Hong Kong-based Leyou Technologies, had been axed.
According to a Bloomberg report at the time, the game’s cancelation was the result of a dispute between Amazon and Chinese tech giant Tencent, which acquired Leyou in December 2020.
Speaking in a new GameSpot interview, Amazon Games president Christoph Hartmann revealed that Lord of the Rings license holder Middle-earth Enterprises chose to exercise a clause in its contract allowing it to terminate its rights deal should one of its partners get acquired.
After this happened, Hartmann said things got “very complicated”. And while Amazon explored ways to continue working on the project with Tencent, it ended up walking away after failing to make headway in negotiations.
“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,” Hartmann said.
“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.”
The cancelled Lord of the Rings game was originally announced in 2018 by Athlon and Middle-earth Enterprises.
Athlon said at the time that it was working with a “partner developer” to create an online game set “long before the events of The Lord of the Rings, exploring lands, people and creatures never seen before by fans of the Tolkien universe”.
In addition to co-developing the title, Amazon Games was set to market and publish the game globally except for China, which would have been managed by Leyou.
Amazon’s new Lord of the Rings TV series, The Rings of Power, premiered on its Prime Video streaming service this month.
In July, Embracer Group announced it had entered into an agreement to acquire Middle-earth Enterprises which will give it movie, gaming and other rights to J.R.R. Tolkien works including The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.
Tencent and Ubisoft announced a major strategic partnership this week. It will see Tencent acquire a stake in Ubisoft’s family holding and also potentially double its stake in the Assassin’s Creed publisher. The deal covers the development of mobile titles from several of Ubisoft’s major franchises too.