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When Peter Jackson last ruled Middle-earth, there were two competing The Lord of the Rings game franchises on store shelves. Sierra Entertainment had licensed the books from the J.R.R. Tolkien estate, while Electronic Arts licensed the movie rights from New Line Cinema. Eventually, EA ended up with the one video game ring to rule them all. These days, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment has the rights to both the books and the movies and continues to release new games such as the upcoming Lego: The Lord of the Rings for all platforms and Guardians of Middle-earth for PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade.
A lot has changed in the game industry since Jackson previously brought Tolkien’s work to the big screen in the early 2000s. These days, there are fewer licensed games for consoles as Hollywood opts for the growing free-to-play online games space, as well as the booming mobile market. That’s exactly the strategy Warner Bros. is taking with The Hobbit.
Massively multiplayer online game developer Kabam and WBIE have partnered to co-publish games for mobile devices and the web inspired by The Hobbit trilogy, a production of New Line Cinema and MGM Pictures.
Under the deal, Kabam will develop and operate two multiplayer strategy games, The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth for mobile devices and The Hobbit: Armies of the Third Age for web browsers, both launching in the fall. As of Sept. 25, players can sign up to take part in the upcoming beta for Armies of the Third Age.
“The Hobbit films are among the most anticipated entertainment launches of all time,” Kabam CEO Kevin Chou said. “Kabam’s unique ability to blend the art of game design and the science of free-to-play distribution makes us a natural fit to partner with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment to deliver thrilling games via the web and mobile devices for The Hobbit film fans around the world.”
Said Greg Ballard, senior vp digital Games at WBIE: “We are very pleased to work with Kabam in creating immersive free-to-play online games on massive scales across multiple platform. Kabam’s Armies of the Third Age and Kingdoms of Middle-earth will be an excellent way for The Hobbit film fans around the world to delve more into the iconic story and interact with the characters in the universe.”
Kingdoms of Middle-earth is a game for mobile devices that challenges players to build and manage their own kingdom in Middle-earth, joining with other players to explore and engage in epic war. Armies of the Third Age is a browser-based game that puts gamers at the helm of an army of Elves, Dwarves or Orcs, controlling heroes including Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey in fast-paced strategic combat, with the fate of Middle-earth hanging in the balance. Both games are free-to-play and will feature iconic locations and characters from the Hobbit trilogy.
There are no new announced console games based on the upcoming trilogy in the works. Sierra published a game based on the Hobbit novel in 2003, the year the final installment of the Lord of the Rings film series, The Return of the King, hit theaters. It was a kid-focused action game for PC, Xbox, PlayStation 2 and GameCube developed by Inevitable Entertainment.
An Unexpected Journey, the first film in Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, arrives Dec. 14.
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