LOTRO Legendarium: Why do we know so little about Fate of Gundabad?

    
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Over the past few months, my general sense of rising hope for Lord of the Rings Online has been tempered by a nagging disquiet about one area in particular. Considering that we’ve known for two years now that Standing Stone Games was working on a Gundabad expansion for the game, I’d say it’s gone from puzzling to downright irksome that the studio’s told us so little about it.

This is not a new trend for the game, of course. For years now, LOTRO’s held its content cards close to its chest, usually springing them upon us at the last minute with the least amount of ado possible. And this really bugs me, especially since Fate of Gundabad is supposed to be the tentpole release of the year.

I don’t fault the content creators themselves. The developers put in a whole lot of work writing quests, crafting areas, and making new adventures for us to experience. These almost always are terrific additions to the game, and I’d argue that the storylines and zones of the past few years easily rival the best LOTRO’s made to date.

But what’s the point of making a lot of great content when you’re so quiet and unwilling to promote it? I get that details are often in flux, but the broad strokes of an expansion are usually in place a good amount of time before it arrives. So why isn’t SSG talking more about it?

If you take a step back and look at the big picture, as of the writing of this article (and I know I’m tempting fate by doing so), we know scant actual details about the expansion. We know that it’s taking us into the Dwarven underground realm of Gundabad, that it’ll be tied in with the Brawler class, that it’s coming out this fall, that it’s wrapping up the current Dwarves vs. Orcs storyline and that it’ll probably (but not definitely) include the legendary item revamp. That’s… it.

Many producer interviews, dev posts, and Friday livestreams, and that sad paragraph of information is always we have — after two years of build-up. Meanwhile, other MMOs are hyping up their expansions like crazy. SWTOR and FFXIV are wisely leveraging these 2021 packs for all they’re worth, getting eyes and attention on them in the months leading up to release.

LOTRO? LOTRO’s doing what LOTRO usually does, which is to be as coy as possible until Daybreak approves the sale of pre-orders. Then we’ll get a pre-order page with some additional information — but still, strangely, not enough — and the expansion will release with minimal fanfare a month later. At that point, I suppose, we’ll know what’s actually in it.

At this point, I think a meme is called for.

Lord of the Rings Online can’t afford to be coy and mysterious about its expansions. We don’t get them that often, and Fate of Gundabad is, in the context of the MMO, a Big Deal. This game’s not a top tier title that automatically garners millions of views, so it needs to grab every opportunity to market and promote.

On top of that, I honestly feel like this chronic habit of leaving actual descriptions and expansion information to the last minute does nothing to foster goodwill among LOTRO’s playerbase. Instead of drawing us into the excitement, we’re kept out in the dark. I’ve been observing a lot of these producer interviews and Q&A chats over the past few months, and I think it’s downright disrespectful how many questions about Fate of Gundabad have been brushed off by the studio. I’ve listened to interviewers beg for just a scrap of information and are handed far less than that in return.

I don’t want to get hyperbolic about this, but I am not the first person to call out how SSG keeps doing this — and seems hellbent on making Fate of Gundabad’s release practically a non-event. Why? What benefit is there in doing so? Are SSG’s hands tied by Daybreak somehow? Is this just ingrained habit at this point?

I simply had to get that off my chest. SSG, if you really are committed to improving communication as you’ve claimed this year, then this would be an excellent area to start actually communicating.

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.
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Stormsong Minstrel
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Stormsong Minstrel

Because SSG and marketing is a bit like ad in Soviet Union: “Fly Aeroflot!”. Well, there were only planes of Aeroflot flying in SSSR…so your choice was obvious.
SSG just do not care. There are enough whales who would trash 200$ for expansion – all for the sake of title and goat. While whales are happy, nobody should care about anything.
We know little of Gundabad. So what? Whales would grab the most expensive edition, just to have most expensive edition. A choir of fanboys would inevitably praise anything SSG releases.
In short, SSG is in very good position there: release whatever you want, nerf whatever you want, spit at players as much as you want – just do your best to satisfy maybe 5% of playerbase, your whales.
Others, SSG may think, are pure trash.

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kothoses

Honestly, I am so sick of games overhyping them selves so early, spoon feeding us more and more information about the content systems on such a regular cadanece to sustain the hype machine that by the time it launches, I already feel like I have played it through.

I stopped following the hype train of most games I enjoy these days (FFXIV, GW2, SWTOR) for precisely that reason, and as some one looking to get into Lotro the idea of starting a grand adventure through middle earth for the first time, knowing next to nothing about the game is perhaps the most exciting part.

Yes, they should Market their stuff better, but I love the idea of being genuinely suprised come launch day.

cambruin
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cambruin

They know the sad state of the servers, they simply cannot handle a larger playerbase. Imagine an influx of players on servers like Evernight, Arkenstone, Brandywine, … This would be the server fiasco of last summer all over again. Servers going down for days, coming up with chat disabled or broken, going down another day, back up, down for a day or 2 again,…

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rk70534

Evernight has seen a massive drop in player numbers in recent months; it was up to 1400 at peak times even in early summer and in the last week at best the numbers have been barely above 600.

If the servers are the problem (and SSG tied to the existing servers for whatever reasons) they can stop worrying and start to do some hype – there is room…

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Schlag Sweetleaf

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Mark
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Mark

Call me cynical but I think player numbers drop as soon as level cap increase details are released. So they delay announcing such things for as long as possible.

They will get most of their sales from current players so there is no great need to spend money broadcasting.

Hey I would enjoy some tidbits also but I’ll be busy enough playing with LI’s after 30.3 drops.

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Bruno Brito

Lack of information from a company that is owned by Ji Ham?

Shocking.

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Vincent Clark

SSG/Turbine has always lacked in the area of promoting their game. They seem content on letting a couple weeks in Bullroarer do the majority of the heavy lifting (and it gives them free testers).

Trailers are dropped at the very last minute and mediocre at best (honestly, I’m being kind here).

Ages ago, when I was actively playing I remember posting on the OF how outrageous I thought it was that when I went to see one of the Hobbit movies in the cinema, there was a trailer before the movie for an upcoming WoW expansion…but nothing for LotRO. The community manager chimed in and said that it’s just not worth the resources to do that sort of promotion.

I get the feeling that attitude hasn’t changed over the years.

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Michael18

Yes, this is weird. Some of the major content additions over the past years have released almost in secrecy.

Personally, I believe they found out, over time, that for whatever reason the approach of “just releasing” new content without much hype is what works best for the game. Possible reasons I could think of:

– tech of the game (both client and server side) is not up to the task of serving a huge release crowd. A hyped release with lots of folks coming in at the same time that is poorly received due to tech issues wouldn’t help the game in the long run.

– at this point, LOTRO is a long-tail game. People who are interested in such a relatively old game won’t lose interest in an update or expansion just because it has been out for a couple months. So in the long run they probably do not lose many sales by refraining from creating a huge release hype.

-the past years showed that the current dev team simply does not have the resources to release major new content without many bugs; having a release without much hype gives them more time to iron out the content.

So it seems they are basically doing “soft launches” for all new content, nowadays. And considering the state of the game’s tech and the resources they have available, this might not be a bad idea, actually.

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LibertyPrime8

These are really great points. I’d also guess that they lack a cohesive marketing department. They’ve probably already done a cost-benefit analysis a long time ago and already reached the conclusion that the resources they have would be better put to use into actually developing their game and paying their bills.

Also, seeing as everyone and their mother complains about how dated the game looks and feels (something I really don’t care much about) it’s probably a better course of action to continue servicing their current loyal player base than to further invite criticism by people who’ve never even played the game before. There’s already more than enough youtube videos featuring some aspiring MMO youtuber bashing the game’s presentation when they’ve hardly left the starting area.