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EA loses license for "Lord of the Rings"

Romier S

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So after getting an extension through March, the licensing deal between New Line and EA has now ended in so far as the "Lord of the Rings" license is concerned. The rights will revert back to Warner Bros. who will no doubt have its interactive brand developing games for the series from here on out.




It appears that Frodo is coming home. Not to the Shire, but to Warner Bros.


Though neither company said anything about it, New Line's licensing deal with Electronic Arts for "Lord of the Rings" games expired at the end of last year. Originally set to end in 2007, the two companies agreed on an extension that March until the end of 2008 (the pact also included literary rights holder Tolkien Enterprises).


The last game released under the deal was January's poorly received, soft selling "Lord of the Rings: Conquest" (one of the reasons the game turned out so badly may have been that developer Pandemic had to get it done before EA's rights expired at the end of 2008, though apparently the publisher got a two-week reprieve to release it in early January).


Since EA first got its hands on the "Lord of the Rings" license back in 2001, New Line has transitioned from an independent studio under the Time Warner corporate umbrella to a label for Warner Bros., which now handles most of its business operations. Warner, of course, has its own videogame unit, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, that has grown from a licensing unit to a full-fledged publisher with its own slate of AAA titles.


So, you own a major publisher... you just got back the interactive rights to one of the top entertainment properties in the world... Can you guess where I'm going? It's a safe bet that Warner Bros. won't be licensing out "Lord of the Rings" again. Instead, based on logic and what some sources have told me, expect Warner Bros. to start producing "Lord of the Rings" games itself soon (whether they're based solely on its films, or also stuff from the books, will depend whether it makes a deal with Tolkien Enterprises).


A Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment rep declined to comment.


As movie studios increasingly handle their own videogame publishing, this will continue be the trend. Why keep licensing out your best stuff if you can make the games yourself? Disney, for instance, is in the process of taking back the Pixar license from THQ, which has the rights to make games based on "Up" and one more film, most likely 2011's "Newt" (Disney is doing 2010's "Toy Story 3")


Of course, while "Lord of the Rings" is big, Warner Bros. has another videogame license currently in the hands of EA that it's no doubt salivating to bring back home: Harry Potter. That won't happen for a while, though. EA's deal extends through Warner Bros.' last film, which will be part 2 of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" in 2011. (Although, according to reports, WB may already have its studio Traveller's Tales working on "Lego Harry Potter," perhaps in some kind of co-publishing deal with EA.)

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I had a ton of fun with Battle for Middle Earth (and BFME2 to some extent).

Both were quite good. I also enjoyed "The Two Towers" and "Return of the King" hack and slash titles that they released. They were simple but they both featured some some good old fashioned beat-em-up fun.

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