Please Amazon, reconcile with Tencent so we can have a Rings of Power MMO

It’s clear from the first sweeping vista of Middle-earth what Amazon wants to accomplish with its new Lord of the Rings show. The Rings of Power endlessly jumps between characters who each represent different regions of the larger Lord of the Rings legend. We have Imperial elves residing in verdant, eternally autumnal realms, humans digging the life of a yeoman in thatched cottages, and proto-Hobbits rustling berries in dense, wild valleys. The camera frequently pulls back to reveal a sepia-toned map, laminated with all of Tolkien’s realms – the places that only appear in comic books and apocryphal RPGs – demonstrating how the Lord of the Rings universe officially broke free from Constraints of Peter Jackson and can now swell through countless spinoffs, sequels, and multiversal digressions. The era of the franchise has finally arrived, and so it’s hard to watch The Rings of Power without hungering for a Middle-earth MMO entirely made and financed by Bezos.

They have already tried once. Amazon, with its fledgling games division, was hard at work on an MMORPG built into the trappings of the mysterious Second Age, which is where The Rings of Power takes place. It’s the perfect position for a beloved story-based video game – familiar surroundings, but a blank slate for storytelling. Nothing concrete about the design philosophy has leaked beyond that, but we may never hear more. The project was canceled in 2021.

Amazon’s interactive division wasn’t able to produce a single smash hit (I’m not counting that six-week period where everyone played a bunch of New World; it was a collective hallucination) but the The cancellation was apparently not due to Amazon store rickets. Bloomberg reported (opens in a new tab) that the project was put on hold due to a contract dispute between Amazon and Tencent, which is even difficult to conceptualize. There was so much money to be made, couldn’t these two golden giants understand it?

You know what would make The Second Age so much more immersive? If you could put 60 in it.

So now we have The Rings of Power, which practically serves as advertising for all of Amazon’s big plans for a megaton gaming company. You can easily view the hypothetical game’s bustling capital cities, dark raid dungeons, and soaring flight paths as you watch. Elrond descends into a bustling Khazad-dum – bright, vibrant, full of bullet-busting dwarves who certainly plod between auction house and reagent vendor for eternity. We see the island kingdom of Númenor – with its white stone Balearic architecture – making so many World of Warcraft veterans desperate to earn a reputation for our dashing nautical princes and princesses. A gigantic elven spire towers over the rugged Southlands, which stretch out into an endless horizon. It looks like the perfect 20-30 zone. I’d love nothing more than to right-click on a wanted poster in one of those little farming hamlets that gives me instructions on how to kill an elite Orc.

It’s a pain I’ll carry with me throughout the first season of The Rings of Power; If only my journey and Galadriel’s journey could come together. After all, a lot of people complained that the series was a bit too narcissistic with its endless set shots on ethereal sights and CGI. You know what would make The Second Age so much more immersive? If you could put 60 in it.

(Image credit: Amazon Studios)

I’m not going to make my grandkids jump on my lap telling them about Shadow of War.

To be clear, there is already a very good Lord of the Rings MMO available right now. The Lord of the Rings Online is still going strong, 15 years after its release in 2007, with a trickle of new expansions to sate its tiny but dedicated community. Back in the white-hot zenith of the MMO boom, LOTRO was regularly recommended as the hipster alternative to Guild Wars or World of Warcraft – it was a bit slower-paced, a bit more story-driven, and equipped with dogmatic devotion. to fiction. (When the game rolled out a PvP mode, it did so by allowing players to transform into monsters – the hobbit on hobbit violence was strictly off limits.)

You can argue that publishers need to be careful about jumping into an established work of fiction with the promise that they’ll execute the immersion better than the developers of yore. (I mean, remember what happened with the endlessly hyped and ultimately bland Old Republic? Star Wars Galaxies veterans are still irritated by this desecration.) But you have to think that a rebirth of the Lord of the Rings should, at the very least, provide something new to play. The recent catalog has been pretty sterile! I’m not going to make my grandkids jump on my lap telling them about Shadow of War. We’re thirsty here, and Rings of Power is only drying us out.

So please, Amazon, after all those false starts, layoffs, and confusing business mishaps, give us the Lord of the Rings MMO we deserve. Resist all the fat talk from investors who are certainly whispering in your ears; don’t give us a LotR Clash of Clans facsimile, or a LotR idle dungeon, or a LotR crypto game. If you finally do a Rings of Power adaptation and Nori pops up on the screen asking me to buy another 2,000 Silmarillions to continue to the next level, we’ll burn the place down. Likewise, don’t give me one of those modern, tentative MMOs like Destiny where you and a legion of elves and dwarves idle around a beautifully restrictive hub area – called, like, “Dalandrath” or other – waiting to teleport to tiny instanced areas in order to hunt down Sauron. No man, we have to go old school. We’re talking old school Asheron’s Call. It is now.

I know that’s easier said than done. Who knows if Amazon is even allowed to start a new LotR MMO project? Amazon Studios created The Rings of Power under license from the Tolkien Estate, but most of the Lord of the Rings TV, film and video game rights are held by Middle-earth Enterprises, which Embracer Group just bought. (Randy Pitchford’s Rings of Power, coming soon?) So maybe Bezos needs to strike an additional gargantuan licensing deal to get those plans off the tarmac in the first place. But I swear it would be worth it.

Amazon slowed development efforts for years, but came close enough to nail it with New World. He has the formula in place to satiate a legion of drifting 34 year olds who are looking for anything to fill them with a wonder they haven’t experienced since sitting in a movie theater to the original trilogy – which at the time was simulated, to a degree close to plagiarism, by Blizzard in World of Warcraft. (They put a fake Mount Doom in Searing Gorge! We could harvest Mithril Veins if we increased our mining skills!)

So please, Amazon: let me run a class and kill rats until I unlock better abilities, allowing me to kill kobolds instead. Let me eat and drink on the shores of the breaking sea. Let me mark a server first on Morgoth. You’ve got the world, now all you have to do is create a modern, expansive MMO and keep the player base fueled with juicy updates forever. (Suddenly producing a billion dollar TV show (opens in a new tab) looks like the easy part.)

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