LOTRO Legendarium: Looking back and forwards with LOTRO

I think it is safe to say without any malice whatsoever that Lord of the Rings Online has firmly entered its autumn years.

Everything about the game seems like it’s slowed down. The last expansion, Helm’s Deep, is receding in the distance (as are all of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films) with no expected further expansions to come. Turbine as a studio has weathered a hard year with the failure of Infinite Crisis, and updates for LOTRO aren’t coming as quickly or reliably as they once did. Chatter across blogs, Twitter, and Reddit shows that this once-favored MMO is not enjoying being one of the major players any longer.

However, all is not lost! Turbine is not only putting out updates but is creating the right sort of updates, consolidating servers and pushing the story forward. The strength of the IP and the loyal playerbase does a lot to prop up this title, ensuring that as long as the lights are left on, LOTRO has many more years ahead of it.

Let’s take a trip back through LOTRO’s big news of 2015 before examining the 2016 producer’s letter and speculating on what is to come.

March

An alleged former Turbine employee posted a tell-all forum post criticizing the game and studio while stirring up a firestorm of controversy among the community. An interesting hour-long lore video featuring some of Turbine’s devs caught our attention and rekindled some interest in the game.

April

There was big buzz around the new legendary item imbuement system, and this month players were treated to a preview of how it would work as well as a sneak peek of the new Osgiliath instance cluster. Eighth anniversary rewards were announced, Russian players were dismayed to find out that their country’s version of the game would close in June, and Vanderbilt hosted a course centered around LOTRO.

May

Update 16: Ashes of Osgiliath came out with a ton of content such as four new regions, more epic story quests, and a legendary item imbuement system. In my final LOTRO Legendarium column (before this one, that is), I belatedly celebrated the game’s 8th anniversary with pictures and stories. The game’s producer made a lot of fans happy by posting a preview letter of several initiatives coming for the remainder of the year.

June

A small balance patch (Update 16.1) brought roleplaying improvements and a new stage in Bree. PvMP players were finally treated to something new with a preview of the Battle of Osgiliath map. Free them from the Ettenmoors! Turbine talked about other upcoming Update 16.2 features, such as cosmetic weapons and the Adventures of Bingo Boffin. Lord of the Rings fans also mourned the passing of Christopher Lee.

July

Summer months were made for frivolity and merriment, so it was appropriate that July saw the return of both the Summer Festival and Weatherstock.

August

Server merges loomed big this year over the game, and this month Turbine announced which 10 servers would remain. Five were picked from the US and five from Europe.

September

A quality-of-life patch came with Update 16.5, which extended the duration of store services and fixed a couple of vexing issues. We all got a chuckle when Turbine announced that players could pay for cash shop purchases with Subway gift cards. The studio also began allowing players to transfer servers for free in anticipation of shard consolidation.

October

The Siege of Minas Tirith began, as Update 17 finally hit the live servers. A new region, two epic battles, and a continuation of the main storyline awaited fans who logged in. Turbine bribed players to test out the new datacenter (which never did make its anticipated 2015 release) and the fourth annual Archet Aid was hosted by European players.

November

Following the terrible Paris attacks, the player community held a rally and concert on a French server to show solidarity with the country. We also talked about why we seem to keep returning to Lord of the Rings Online after all of these years.

December

The Yule Festival returned this month to cap off the year and bring us back to Winter-home, while Turbine started testing out sales of instant level boosts to 95 with Update 17.1.

I think it’s actually a good sign that Turbine didn’t procrastinate on its traditional producer’s preview letter but got it out in time for the holidays. The letter identified five big projects for 2016: the move to the new datacenter hardware, a level cap increase to 105, a new instance cluster (with a raid!), a collection system, and quality of life improvements. The story will progress through the Battle of Pelennor Fields and push toward the Black Gates of Mordor itself.

To my ears as a long-time player of the game, that all is welcome news. Personally, I hope that Turbine is accumulating enough content and resources to create Mordor as one big expansion for the future, but if that’s to come it doesn’t look like it’ll happen this year. I’m equally glad that the studio is going back to making new instances, since players have been asking for those for quite some time now. Maybe a reversal in this area might signal that the studio is open to reconsidering some of its other positions — player housing revamp, anyone?

Lord of the Rings Online needs to put out a solid, reliable stream of updates and information in the new year. Turbine must get out there more and talk up the game, as it remains its strongest property and has quite a bit of juice left in it. If the studio is quiet or unenthusiastic about it, players will pick up on it and respond in kind. If it cheerleads more and presents a front of strength, then warriors will bolster the title.

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34 Comments on "LOTRO Legendarium: Looking back and forwards with LOTRO"

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Geering
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Geering

As much as I love LotRO – I’ve quit every other MMO, one is more than enough of a time sink – I have to agree that it seems to be on its Autumn years.

That’s not to say it’s about to die, we may still – hopefully – have quite a few years before it finally sails westward.

My expectations for the future aren’t much, anyway… complete the story, fix a few things & I’ll be happy with an extended maintenance mode. It’s not like there isn’t enough to do. Even if you don’t do the optional grinds, there’s still hundred of hours for every character you create.

Of course, what *would* be nice & I mean really, really nice, is that if juuuust before the lights were turned off & the doors closed for good, someone inside Turbine anonymously & accidentally leaked the necessary data to emulate the servers, oops.

It could happen.

wanderv15
Guest
wanderv15

Karl_Hungus Boseafus You forgot that Turbine is no more independent company.

wanderv15
Guest
wanderv15

That was quite good year, but i hope 2016 will be better. At least we’l get a new raid! People waited so long!

wanderv15
Guest
wanderv15

denhith Lol, another troll. Did you play Moria on start? Riders of Rohan? U17 is much more stable. The only problem WAS memory leakage in some places in Minas Tirith on ultra high settings.

wanderv15
Guest
wanderv15

Karl_Hungus

ThompsonClaytonRadcliff
Guest
ThompsonClaytonRadcliff

JohnD212 I think it is safe to say without any malice whatsoever that http://massivelyop.com/tag/lord-of-the-rings-online/ has firmly entered its autumn years.  That’s not calling for a ‘death knell’, it’s calling it like it is.  ‘Autumn’ does not equal throes of death.  The game is by any objective standard a shadow of its former self with the loss of a vast majority of its player base, decline in content offered, and well documented loss of developers at the company itself.  As someone who played from early beta up until Helm’s Debacle, nobody loved the game more than I.  But I saw the decline.  It’s there in plain sight.  Justin was being kind and optimistic in his writing here.

bambocheur
Guest
bambocheur

I enjoy Justin’s LOTRO coverage and I admit that this article did get me over the edge and reinstall the game for my annual 1-2 weeks of gameplay before I exit for the year. At this point, there’s not much Turbine can do to win me back, I’m firmly in the “LOTRO’s best years were back in 2009” camp, but I still hope that Turbine’s management can pull this off for the sake of it’s employees.

Enikuo
Guest
Enikuo

My concern for LotRO is that it might be expected to make up for the failures of the Lego game and Infinite Crisis. On it’s own, I think LotRO would probably have been fine. I just don’t know how Turbine’s other missteps might affect it.

DianeBradley
Guest
DianeBradley

JohnD212 I agree. I was somewhat distressed by this article. The loyal player base is eager for former players to come back and for new players to give it a try. “Doom and gloom” reporting like this tends to make potential players think it isn’t worthwhile, so they shrug and head off for some shiny new title that’s getting all the hype.

I’ve tried a few shiny new titles recently: Elder Scrolls Online, Guild Wars 2, Final Fantasy XIV. What am I playing? LOTRO and EQ2, with an occasional foray back to WoW.

Enikuo
Guest
Enikuo

Grimmtooth I transferred to Arkenstone when Windfola was shuttered. It seems pretty busy. I like it so far.

Karl_Hungus
Guest
Karl_Hungus

Boseafus Karl_Hungus 
The likelihood of them not renewing is speculation on my part, but everything else is well documented. If they don’t pull something out of their sleeve and soon, they could end up in dire straits. The only games they have out now are relics of the past that have dwindling populations and dwindling revenue streams. They took a risk with Infinite Crisis, which was a MOBA based on the DC comic universe and it didn’t even last a year before it was shut down. That does not bode well for Turbine.

If they were healthy, a LOTRO expansion would’ve been announced by now as at least being in development but because of the huge loss they ate with Infinite Crisis, they probably don’t make enough money from LOTRO to justify the development cost of an expansion so they’ve been sticking to smaller updates. Renewing the license in 2017 will come down to several factors: the cost to run the game versus how much money the game makes, Turbine possibly becoming financially destitute, and Warner Bros.
One of the only reasons Warner Bros bought Turbine was because of the LOTR license and it’s now Warner Bros who renews the contract each time it comes up. The one thing that might save LOTRO in 2017 is the same thing that saved it in 2014. Warner Bros. doesn’t want to give up the license. However, if the cost to renew the license goes up, or Turbine goes bankrupt, on top of LOTRO losing more money than it’s making, then yes the game could very well be shutting down in 2017.
It’s not something I want to see but it’s an inevitability I’ve been preparing myself for ever since Mythic didn’t renew the license to keep Warhammer Online… online.

schlag sweetleaf
Guest
schlag sweetleaf

Ironweakness

Boseafus
Guest
Boseafus

Karl_Hungus
I’m curious if you have any sources/links regarding the dwindling profitability and the correlation between Turbine not getting enough revenue from other sources and the likelihood they won’t renew?  I’m genuinely trying to find a source for this since I’ve seen this type of comment a few times the past year…

Bluetouchpaper
Guest
Bluetouchpaper

I think the story will reach its end in terms of the book quests . That may just end up being a limited Moria patch to wrap things up if the license isn’t renewed or if it is then it probably will mean an expansion and a series of patches before we get to that point . 

My bet is unless we see another middle earth mmo in development this game will be around until the early 2020’s but it wouldn’t also surprise me if it does end in a year or two either . 

I’ve enjoyed it these last 8 years ( got a lifetime sub for half price ) even though I just dipped in and out of it in that time . 

Playing again now and its actually a fun experience now the servers have all been merged ( that should have been done years ago ) . 

There are older games with less players that still turn out new content but I imagine Tolkien is kind of the biggest beast in the fantasy genre so eventually there will be money to be made from a new mmo . 

I would love fourth age as a setting . After Sauron the evil kings to the East fought on and there are stories to be told about that and the Orc Cults that grew after his demise .

schlag sweetleaf
Guest
schlag sweetleaf
mourneuk
Guest
mourneuk

Those character models were awful at release and should never have made it into the game. It’s the main reason I’ve never liked the game even as a huge lord of the rings fan.

Bannex19
Guest
Bannex19

New question: if turbine loses or doesn’t renew the license will the title shut down or can turbine sell the property to a company that will pay to renew it? I guess idk how the licensing game works

Ironweakness
Guest
Ironweakness

This is not a drill, repeat, this is not a drill.
We have a live opinion here, cupcakes and you all know what that means. Not everyone will be coming back, but we’ll go down knowing someone was wrong on the Internet and we freely gave our dignity to point this out to them.
Good luck, and God speed.

Rynn
Guest
Rynn

At least it lasted this long for you. For me, LotRO died shortly after Mirkwood.

Bannex19
Guest
Bannex19

Which baffles me how this game can be in trouble while junk games like allods online seem to be doing just fine…

Karl_Hungus
Guest
Karl_Hungus

Bannex19 
They have the option to renew the license, which they did in 2014, but if the game keeps dwindling in profitability and Turbine doesn’t get enough revenue from other sources, it’s very likely they won’t renew.

Dreema
Guest
Dreema

I should probably give this another go at some point. The low level zones are so good, but then the game hits Moria and things get steadily worse. Most of the content I can still play happily through, but I find myself dreading the thought of war steeds and epic battles looming on the horizon – two of the worst and most badly designed concepts I’ve ever come across in an MMO. The game would benefit massively if they were both banished to the blackest pits of Mordor.

Bannex19
Guest
Bannex19

Don’t they have the LoTR rights for 1 more year?

Grimmtooth
Guest
Grimmtooth

Even though I believe LotR is in its final year or 2 I just reinstalled it last night & am going to give it another go.
Any suggestions on server? the one I was on was shut down.
I’m not a RPer just looking for basic play.

JohnD212
Guest
JohnD212

While I respect your reporting Justin, I feel you’re trying to call the death kneel for a game before even the studio has said that. You’re over analyzing a game based on pass experience with other games and it’s not fair. LOTRO is very much alive and they are in the process of moving the servers onto better hardware which has taken a lot of work (and a delay).  There are plenty of games out there that are barely surviving that I think you can focus on but LOTRO is not one of them.  Please do your best to focus on digging graves for those (many of which never get updates or expansions) and leave the games that have a population alone.

Syppi
Guest
Syppi

denhith Sound the bias alert! All commenters, to your stations!

Karl_Hungus
Guest
Karl_Hungus

Autumn years? More like winter years. It’s basically been in glorified maintenance mode for awhile now. The only thing keeping it going is one of the best communities I’ve ever seen in an MMO. It’s a shame Turbine milked them just to blow it all on Infinite Failure instead of putting it back into LOTRO. I wouldn’t be surprised if we never make it to Mordor at this rate.

Zipzopzippitybop
Guest
Zipzopzippitybop

ColdinT I think the dwarves look fine. It’s the other races that need the makeover.

Zipzopzippitybop
Guest
Zipzopzippitybop

It’s such a massive world with decentish graphics. They just need to consolidate the stats and update the very funky looking character animations, and I’d be back in a paying flash.

denhith
Guest
denhith

Extremely biased article.  Leaves out the fact that Update 17 was one of the buggiest, non-playable Updates this year.  Even after several hot fixes, people are still experiencing major memory leaks, crashes, fps drops and lag in the new area.  And that is just the tip of the iceberg.

mjcbarnes
Guest
mjcbarnes

The server consolidations have been great for the game. I see people everywhere I go now, even in places that I never used to see them. There’s more people playing the game than I thought, and though it’s not a huge title, the game is far from dead.
There may not be any more paid expansions, but instead we’re getting regular content updates released more frequently that added together would be like an expansion. They are working on new group instances and even a raid. We get new zones. They’ve said that after the black gate, we’ll follow Frodo and Co back to the Shire.
This game has been around for over 8 years. It’s been in its autumn years for a while now. I don’t like that this article makes it seem like the game is declining even more now. It seems to me as an active player that the game and community is in much better shape now than it was during the Kate Paiz years. There’s more life in this game than there was even just a year ago. I’m not denying it is definitely in its autumn years, just that it’s not in some kind of rapid decline. I wish massively had someone on staff that still actively played the game to write about it. Good things are happening there even if it isn’t super popular these days.

ogged451
Guest
ogged451

“but is creating the right sort of updates” .. no. The usual things like reputation,  and especially the new LIs are more grindy than ever, pushing the store and I don’t see that trend reversing anytime soon.

ColdinT
Guest
ColdinT

Resources are the main reason it hasn’t been done. All races and genders would need to be redone, including all emotes and animations, as well as make sure new armor fits appropriately. That’s no easy task for a studio that’s already expending all its art budget on new content.

@collagen123
Guest
@collagen123

Still no new character models…. No thanks then, I’ll pass……..

I see no reason why they cannot do what Wow did and leave the original for those who like them but these models are god awful……. The world is beautiful but the models I just can’t… And yes I know they did some tweak to the faces but that wasn’t nearly enough….

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