LOTRO Legendarium: What the Amazon TV series means for Lord of the Rings Online

If you haven’t been paying attention to the television market over the past few years, you might have missed the fact that we are in the middle of a revolution of how shows are made and broadcast. Streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, HBO, Disney, and CBS are greenlighting all sorts of fantastic shows with the hopes of strengthening their audience and luring them to these pay-to-watch platforms.

Game of Thrones, Westworld, The Walking Dead, The Defenders, Star Trek Discovery, and Stranger Things are a few examples of how these companies are getting acclaim and major viewership with ambitious projects. Large amounts of money are being thrown around on both the licensing and production of these shows, and companies are frantically looking around for the next big hit. So while Disney is boldly announcing a Star Wars live action TV series, Amazon went to the fantasy equivalent and nabbed a little thing called Lord of the Rings.

Yes indeed. The big news from this past week was that Amazon bought the rights to produce a multi-season Lord of the Rings series. While the exact cost of this deal wasn’t revealed, industry experts estimate that it was somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 to $250 million. No small po-tay-toes any way you look at it. But what will this series mean for our beloved MMORPG? I have a few thoughts about that.

What we know of Amazon’s Lord of the Rings project

Apart from the announcement of the acquisition itself, Amazon hasn’t spilled many specifics of what this series will entail. However, we do know one vital piece of information: The show will be set before the events of the Lord of the Rings novels, giving it prequel status (and sequel status too, if it is set after The Hobbit). It most likely won’t be tied into Peter Jackson’s vision of the franchise, so it’s probably best to separate the two projects in your mind right now.

While I would have loved to have seen the whole Lord of the Rings told at a more measured pace and with more accuracy, I agree that it is probably best to forge some new territory here. Amazon doesn’t need endless Peter Jackson comparisons, and there is wisdom in setting the show in a familiar world without lashing it tightly to a pre-scripted plot.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the show will be completely divorced from Tolkien’s works. The Tolkien Estate said that the show runners “have exceptional ideas to bring to the screen previously unexplored stories based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s original writings.” This, to me, is both heartening and intriguing. Tolkien’s Middle-earth fiction wasn’t just limited to Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, of course. The man spun numerous stories of the various ages of Middle-earth, including The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth, The Book of Lost Tales, and The Children of Húrin. There is a wealth of lore and material around which to center a show, but right now we have no idea what the creators are thinking.

It should also be noted that this past week also revealed that 93-year-old Christopher Tolkien, the gatekeeper of the Tolkien Estate following his father’s death, resigned back in August. Christopher was notorious for keeping a tight reign on the Middle-earth IP, which is now open for what observers have called a “rights frenzy.” It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that the Amazon deal took place following his resignation.

As truly excited — and surprised — as I am with this announcement, I’m a little concerned as well. There seems to be a trend with these high-profile series to make them as gritty and exploitative as possible and play fast and loose with the source material. I don’t necessarily want to see an ultra-bloody splatterfest with Elf prostitutes and backstabbing Hobbits.

Connecting past and present

On the surface, there is very little that could connect the TV show to the MMORPG, especially with the division of source material. LOTRO is “the game of the books,” as the devs are fond of saying, and Amazon’s show sounds like it’ll be “the show of the other, less-well-known books.” Add to that the fact that we are probably a ways out from seeing it air, and it might be safe to assume that despite a shared world, there will be pretty much nothing that will connect the two.

But I can foresee some possibilities. If LOTRO is still running whenever Amazon releases the show, it will have a prime opportunity to pick up on a renewed interest in Tolkien’s world. Pop culture is funny this way, as an explosion of excitement about one thing could spill over into related mediums. And if companies get wise and cross-promote, then “transmedia synergy” is born.

I know plenty of LOTRO players who found their way to the game after having read the books and feeling the urge to further indulge in the franchise. From book to movie to game to sordid fan fiction on Reddit, there’s always connections available when fandom is intense enough.

And while Amazon’s prequel series won’t be following the narrative of Lord of the Rings, it will most certainly be set in the same world with many of the same races, locations, and shared history. Tolkien’s creation is fascinating in its depth and detail, and availing oneself of multiple perspectives on it is a great way to get to know it better.

I am fully anticipating geeking out over seeing recognizable landmarks, thanks in great part to how the MMO has helped me become familiar with the geography and vistas. In a similar vein, LOTRO often touches on the history of Middle-earth and its people, and if both the game and the show are faithful to the same source material, then we players might find ourselves in a good spot to understand some of what’s going on from the get-go.

My hopes and wishes

Like you, I have my own personal wish list for a Middle-earth TV series. I would love for it to skew more to the intimate, natural feel of LOTRO than the big budget spectacle of the movies or contemporary fantasy shows.

I definitely hope that the creators will understand the virtues and cultures in the books so that the characters aren’t thinly veiled 21st century transplants play acting. These are characters of a different era in a different world (albeit one inspired by our own) that aren’t bloodthirsty magic users with demonic best friends. There are class divisions, racial histories, deeply ingrained patriotism, and varied relationships with the world about them.

In the meanwhile, we continue to explore the Middle-earth that is right here and right now. And as Amazon writes its own story in the past, Standing Stone Games prepares to push past the last page of The Return of the King to forge its own tale in the future. I am crossing my fingers that both will do Tolkien justice.

Every two weeks, the LOTRO Legendarium goes on an adventure (horrid things, those) through the wondrous, terrifying, inspiring, and, well, legendary online world of Middle-earth. Justin has been playing LOTRO since its launch in 2007! If you have a topic for the column, send it to him at justin@massivelyop.com.
SHARE THIS ARTICLE
Code of Conduct | Edit Your Profile | Commenting FAQ | Badge Reclamation | Badge Key

LEAVE A COMMENT

33 Comments on "LOTRO Legendarium: What the Amazon TV series means for Lord of the Rings Online"

Subscribe to:
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most liked
Reader
Humble DG

I’m excited to hear of the new show coming to Amazon, but I feel it could be the nail in the coffin for LOTRO. The game as it stands today would not be ideal for newer audiences that would be expecting a modern MMO. My hope is that this is what drives them to upgrade the LOTRO game on the whole, but I actually feel they can’t at this stage. And it could push WB to find a successor and push that instead.

Reader
Crowe

Yup, the engine is creaky and old. New players might check it out but that alone would turn most away.

Reader
Witches

Most MMOs are Tolkienesque fantasy, WOW stands to gain as much as LOTRO from a successful adaptation of Tolkien’s works.

As for the shows themselves , going from the name checking of GoT, i would say the train is still on the station but we already have all we need for a trainwreck.

Reader
roo woods

I think it will be interesting to see a series that cover the events in between the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings .

I also wonder if new books will be commissioned by other well known fantasy authors to tell stories that Tolkien only ever hinted at , The Old Took comes to mind .

I wouldn’t be surprised if Peter Jackson already has one eye on the Silmarillion .

Reader
Viktor Budusov

Thorongil (young Aragorn) adventures is my bet!

Reader
Maggie May

As so one who read the books when I was a child and retread up to adulthood I am getting to the point where I am ready to not be doused with other people’s interpretation of Tolkeins vision. Then again these shows are not aimed at me as I fully intend at some point to retread one last time and put them away for good.

Reader
Eamil

IF the show is good, I see the potential for a second Middle-Earth MMO set somewhere around the time frame of the show. It’s pretty wishful thinking on my part, though.

That’s not to say it would be the end of LotRO. Everquest and Everquest 2 both exist and both have enough players to justify their continued existence and release new expansions. But LotRO hasn’t aged gracefully, and I’d like to see a Middle-Earth MMO that feels more like a big open world to explore that at least mostly exists in the same time frame, rather than every zone’s individual time frame being tied to its place in the progression through the storyline.

Reader
draugris

I don´t know,i expect it to be horrible tbh. It´s a pitty that Christopher Tolkien stepped back, he would have never allowed it. I mean haven´t we seen enough sins to be made on the lore ? Shadows of War where a ranger is building an orc army to fight for him to make him the ruler of mordor, or The Hobbit movie where we had to watch a romance between a dwarf and an elf ? Even LotRO is turning with every expansion more and more away from the books. i believe Middle-Earth, Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion will turn into a bizarre comedy show if this show is coming to life.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron
Ashfyn Ninegold

They’re calling it “Lord of the Rings” because who other than Tolkien nerds have heard of The Silmarillion, the history of everything before the Ring trilogy? Can you imagine the gigantic sigh of “meh” if Amazon announced it was making a series out of what is really more of an encyclopedia than a novel?

Because, I’m pretty sure that WB owns everything related to the trilogy, so it would have to be stories derived from The Silmarillion. Here’s a little story that might provide some interesting nuggets for speculation:

http://ew.com/tv/2017/11/13/lord-of-the-rings-tv-series/

Now, I’m guessing that Amazon is the one that got the rights to The Silmarillion, not WB. And that’s what this announcement is about.

I doubt it will have any impact on the game at all.

deekay_plus
Reader
deekay_plus

i have a fantasy day dream of a 12 hour 3 part movie of ian mcmillan dressed in his gandlaf costume sitting on a stool in front of a green screen dryly as possible reading silmirillion ver batim from a teleprompter. :D

Reader
Melissa McDonald

There’s a time period of about 70 years between Bilbo’s journey with the dwarves and the fall of Smaug, to his eleventy-first birthday, when Sauron, expelled from Dol Guldur is setting up in Mordor again and rebuilding Barad-dûr, where the Rangers, led by Aragorn (and almost certainly some new ones they’ll invent) are striving to clean out Angmar and protect the Shire and West towards the Havens.

The elves will dramatically pine over their burning need to leave Middle Earth, and their angst over abandoning it to a clearly rising evil. This would all be happening while Gollum used the Ring to little purpose than hunting in his cave deep in the Misty Mountains. The Istari would be on their separate journeys, Saruman would have undertaken the craft of Ring-making, and you’d have the opportunity to show how Aragorn and Arwen first met and fell in love.

During this same period Bard the Bowman would lead in Laketown, and Dale would be re-establishing itself after Smaug was conquered, but the goblins would still be a threat around those areas of the Lonely Mountain. And, the dwarves would be rebuilding there with Dain II and Thorin III, there is a crowd of people who love dwarves and want to wallow in their storylines and culture and that one would make good sense, since it’s “what came after” for that area after the Hobbit books.

LOL I should probably get a script together and ask ’em for a job ;)

Reader
Melissa McDonald

And Smedley is making an unnamed MMO for Amazon. :)

Reader
Patreon Donor
Schlag Sweetleaf

.

Bezos-dur.gif
Reader
Bryan Turner

Doesn’t Amazon have a new MMO studio with a who’s who list of poached talent to put to task for a tie in game?

Reader
Alex Hyer

I strongly doubt they’d make a new Lord of the Rings MMORPG.

Its more likely they’d make a Lobby Based FPS Moba-hybrid w/Battle Royale-mode fast caah money making scheme Game. (Turn that into an acronym)

Reader
Chosenxeno .

HFDDGHTHGJGFJGFHG

Reader
MesaSage

I’m hoping it’s a college buddy Sitcom featuring four hobbits, an elf, a dwarf, a wizard and a couple of humans.

Reader
Brother Maynard

There aren’t many details about this deal, but it seems that Amazon has the luxury of having the rights to more than just the two books, which was PJ’s limitation. If they have indeed acquired the rights to the whole Middle Earth story, it will give them incredible creative freedom.

There are so many powerful stories – often only hinted at – which could each be developed into entire series on its own. Many of Tolkien’s stories, I think, have even greater potential than Lord of the Rings itself, like Narn i Chîn Húrin (which is probably the best developed story in his Unfinished Tales collection – and my personal favourite).

I honestly hope they will set this series long before the Third Age (and before Númenor) – but that’s just my preference. Nirnaeth Arnoediad, for example, told in a whole season could be truly epic… But Númenor’s rise and fall has almost equal appeal – well, what can I say, there’s no weak link in Tolkien’s creation. Setting it thousands of years before the LotR events would also help avoid possible links and comparisons to existing movies and games.

However, I do expect this to be a polarising series, in the spirit of the Man in the High Castle. Well crafted, well narrated, well executed, but not necessarily faithful in every aspect to the original and instead gradually developing its own little this-could-have-been-in-the-book-too tales as the series progress.

One thing is certain: I will keep my fingers crossed that the Amazon series will steer well away from the lore abomination that is all that the recent WB games are.

Reader
Krista Allen

Christopher Tolkien has stepped down as the gatekeeper to the IP. Only good will come of that. For too long has CT kept lotr and the whole Tolkien IP from being what it could be. I for one hope SSG looses the game licences and it will go to a company that deserves it, SSG are making some really bad decisions with their loot boxes..

borghive
Reader
borghive

For how much I love Lotro, it really is a shadow of it’s former self. You can tell they are strap for cash, especially with the current lootbox fiasco going on at the moment.

Reader
drgreenhoe

I see potential here. I hope they do it right and then in the future spin off from this success.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
mistressbrazen

For the LoTRO fans I hope this turns out well… although who knows. Amazon is on record for saying it wants the “next” Game of Thrones. The question becomes what will it be willing to do to the story to get that. To me though, it’s similar to the companies that always chase the “hot” thing. Aren’t there other good fantasy stories that are worth telling beside Lord of the Rings? I don’t have anything against that IP but gosh…there are so many other fantasy stories out there.

Reader
Melissa McDonald

The Silmarillion, told in a GoT style, I think would be outstanding. I agree that I don’t want the source material cheapened with things that simply don’t exist in the literature, but that’s not likely to happen.

Reader
Brother Maynard

They did it because:

– Game of Thrones: HBO
– Witcher: Netflix

Combined with the right time (CT’s retirement) and with Amazon’s budget and wish to challenge Netflix… 250 million dollars is probably cheap, considering all this (their and Netflix’s original series budget is now well into billions per year). Amazon would have gone much higher, I think.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Tandor

My only question is over how they will justify calling it “Lord of the Rings” when the story is neither the Hobbit nor Lord of the Rings but some nondescript story-telling inbetween.

If it manages to raise the profile of the Lord of the Rings then it can’t do LoTRO any harm, but just how many fantasy gamers not brought up on, or familiar with, Lord of the Rings there are out there or people who do fit that description but who haven’t already tried LoTRO, is a moot point. I don’t see it making a huge difference, and given that the timeline is before rather than after Lord of the Rings there isn’t an opportunity for it to form the basis of any future extension to LoTRO, assuming the necessary licence was forthcoming.

Besides, will it actually happen? The jury seems to be out on that so far as my reading of the UK press is concerned. If it does happen, will they make it as good a representation of the books as with Game of Thrones, or as bad a representation of the books as with the Shannara Chronicles? Just because they do it, if they do, doesn’t mean they will do it well. Both the film trilogy of Lord of the Rings and the TV adaptation of Game of Thrones are very tough acts to follow.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Dividion

Who is the Lord of the Rings? Sauron
Neither “The Hobbit” nor “The Lord of the Rings” did a very good job of covering what happened when those rings made it into the hands of their recipients (9 men, 7 dwarves), nor how the Elves kept their 3 rings from being corrupted by Sauron or how they discovered his devious plan for them. So then we’d also be able to see just how far Sauron’s shadow spread and how the kingdoms of Men and Elves banded together to drive him back.
There’s a ton of material to work with, all fitting under the label “The Lord of the Rings”.

Cadaver
Reader
Loyal Patron
Cadaver

oh no.

Reader
Vincent Clark

Well, we know that SSG won’t capitalize on the TV series (regardless of how it turns out), because they have next to zero in the way of a media/promotion team. But maybe WoW can put a trailer or some type of advertisement during the show like they did before the Hobbit movies LOL

Reader
A Dad Supreme

I don’t think it will do much for LOTRO unfortunately.

LOTRO will be a very old game by the time the television series comes out. As of today it’s already 10 years old. Considering Amazon just got the rights to the IP, that means at least two-three years from where we stand now which will put the game 13 years. It could even be as much as five years before we saw a show.

Now age doesn’t necessarily mean a bad thing for a game. Look at WoW, EvE or several other games. They still enjoy a good sub base and interest. The difference is LOTRO is locked into a certain limited tech visually and technically even when it was released, it wasn’t the best looking game out. That age is going to show.

There is the whole thing about new content. When exactly in historical time will the TV series take place? How far back? LOTRO is already before the Ring stuff I believe so we don’t know exactly how new game content would fit with a show. We’ve already seen what happens when an MMO tries to keep up with a fast-paced TV show (Defiance) and what a disaster it becomes.

The best we can hope for is that the new series can spark a fire in current subscribers/Lifetimers because I don’t see where the new players would come from given if you haven’t heard about it after 15 years (almost), you probably have no interest in playing an old version of something that may/may not be congruent with the show you like.

Reader
Bhagpuss Bhagpuss

Isn’t backstabbing exactly what LotRO’s hobbits are good at?

And never mind how this affects LotRO. How about an Amazon MMORPG based on their series?

Reader
Sally Bowls

+1 – That was more eloquent than my “Please be good! and if you can help the MMO that would be even better.”

Reader
Loyal Patron
Armsbend

First I’ve heard of the project. I’m on board.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron
BalsBigBrother

Yeah Christopher Tolkien is on record as saying he didn’t really like the PJ movies so I couldn’t see a tv series happen while he was still at the reigns. Still the announcement happened quicker than I would have thought.

My only hope is that they don’t stray to far away from the feel of the books even if they are not following the stories of them.

As for whether it would help Lotro well anything that shines a light on Middle Earth can only be a good thing for them. I will be interested to see if they try to pick up or allowed to pick up any of the story threads that may be presented in the tv series or refer to them in any way.

wpDiscuz