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A new Lord of the Rings MMO is on the way, taking place before the books

Leyou, best known as the parent company of Warframe's publisher, has formed a brand new subsidiary specifically to work in partnership with the rights holder of JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Together, Athlon Games and Middle-earth Enterprises will be creating a free-to-play, triple-A MMO based on elements of Tolkien’s world never before seen in video games.

Middle-earth Enterprises, formerly known as Tolkien Enterprises, is a trading division of The Saul Zaentz Company, handling specific rights pertaining to the elements and names of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Although this new MMO is to be set “at a time long before the events of The Lord of the Rings,” Athlon still needed express permission to begin working on the project.

“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,” said Fredrica Drotos, Chief Brand & Licensing Officer at Middle-earth Enterprises. “Athlon’s game will allow millions of Middle-earth fans throughout the world a unique opportunity for fellowship and epic exploration.”

While Tolkien’s property has been enjoyed in recent successes such as Middle-earth: Shadow of War, the last non-mobile game to bear the name of The Lord of the Rings was 2012’s Lego version, prompting Althlon Games president. David Miller to express his excitement over “the resurgence of interest in The Lord of the Rings IP.”

Image: 2007's The Lord of the Rings Online

Although Leyou owns both multiplayer guru Splash Damage and Warframe developer Digital Extremes, Athlon has yet to confirm what studio it will be working with on the upcoming MMO. Details pertaining to the title are also few and far between, with the publisher stating that it will explore “lands, people and creatures never seen before by fans of the Tolkien universe.”

“We believe in Athlon Games’ model to collaborate closely with Western developers to implement incredibly successful live services, while also giving its partners the autonomy they need to develop outstanding game experiences,” said Alex Xu, CEO of Leyou Technologies Holdings Limited. “At Leyou, we’ve seen great success implementing this strategy with other titles, such as Warframe. Now we can expand our footprint in the West with Athlon Games.”

Athlon’s new project is not the first free-to-play MMO to explore Middle-earth, as 2007’s Lord of the Rings Online is still up and running. Developer Standing Stone Games released its last expansion for the game last year, titled Mordor. It’s not certain what will happen to Lord of the Rings Online as progress is made on Athlon’s game, but at the very least they will both be set within different timeframes.

KitGuru Says: I have to commend Lord of the Rings Online for breaking that 10-year barrier, however it would be nice to see a newer MMO based on Tolkien’s world that utilises current technology. How do you feel about a new Middle-earth MMO being in the works?

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