'Lord of the Rings'-Based Online Game in the Works

Publisher Athlon Games is behind the new free-to-play title.
New Line Cinema/Photofest
'The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring' (2001)

Gamers will soon be able to explore the world of The Lord of the Rings like never before. 

Middle-earth Enterprises has signed a multiyear licensing agreement with new game publisher Athlon Games to develop a title that will explore the Tolkien universe. The massively multiplayer online game will be set in the world of Middle-earth long before the events of The Lord of the Rings take place. Fans will be able to explore lands, people and creatures that have never been seen before. 

"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 Athlon Games president Dave Miller. "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."

Miller, a veteran of Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and NBC Universal, runs Athlon Games as a subsidiary of Hong Kong-based Leyou Technologies, which also owns developers Digital Extremes and Splash Damage. The companies plan to marry their expertise with free-to-play game design and Western game development around well-known IP to create console and PC games that can sell globally. The Lord of the Rings title is their first 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 and 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."

News of the game comes as Lord of the Rings is set to hit the small screen. Amazon is currently in the process of developing a big-budget television adaptation of the Tolkien classic franchise. Landed through a $250 million deal with the Tolkien estate, the series, which will also be set in a time before the events of the Fellowship of the Ring film franchise, is expected to span five seasons with the potential for a spinoff. Star Trek 4 writers JD Payne and Patrick McKay are helming the project as writers and showrunners.