A new Lord of the Rings game is in development, according to an announcement from Athlon Games. The new Lord of the Rings title will be a free-to-play online game set “at a time long before the events of The Lord of the Rings, exploring lands, people, and creatures never seen before by fans of the Tolkien universe.”
Athlon has secured a multi-year licensing deal with Middle-earth Enterprises to produce the game in partnership with another studio, which was not named in the announcement. If you haven’t heard of Athlon before, that’s because it’s a new subsidiary of Chinese publisher Leyou Technologies, the company that owns Warframe developer Digital Extremes as well as Splash Damage, the studio that most recently worked on the multiplayer for Gears of War 4. The Lord of the Rings will be Athlon’s first big project.
“It’s a singular opportunity to work closely with Middle-earth Enterprises to create a completely new experience for fans of the landmark fantasy work of J.R.R. Tolkien, and we are excited about the resurgence of interest in The Lord of the Rings IP,” said Dave Miller, president of Athlon Games. “This, along with several other major properties Athlon is working with, will help us to further our goal of creating AAA cooperative console and PC experiences that gamers will want to play for years to come.”
It’s unclear how this new project will affect The Lord of Rings Online, the long-running MMO that launched in 2007. That game takes place during and after the events of the books, so the settings of both of these online games could be different enough for both to persist, but that seems unlikely.
As for the Lord of the Rings franchise at large, the property has been enjoying a resurgence for the past few years. Beyond the Peter Jackson movies, the franchise has continued to expand with a new age of stories, including a series of games set in Mordor, a new novel chronicling the Fall of Gondolin, and an upcoming Amazon TV series that will run for five seasons and cost $1 billion. The series could premiere by 2021, perhaps enough time for Athlon to get its new online game off the ground. We’ll keep you updated as we learn more.