I don’t know about you, Lord of the Rings Online fans, but I am really, really digging these quarterly producer’s letters. It feels like just the right amount of information while still giving the team enough time to actually work on the game and build up enough new material to share.the March 2022 producer’s letter, which is the second such of these quarterly roadmaps. This one feels particularly meaty, too, with some major changes to the game’s business model, the announcement of a new region, and plans for the 15th anniversary. Let’s dig into this letter today and see what we can take away for our future journeys through Middle-earth!
Update 33 and Yondershire
While I know that the Shire has its fair share of burned-out haters, I’ve always loved the zone and enjoy any excuse to return to it. Now, we’re going to get an expansion to the Hobbit’s homeland – Yondershire – which is the most adorable name, I think you’ll agree.
SSG didn’t make it clear whether Yondershire will be its own zone or an expansion to the existing Shire map (as the studio did with Bree-land and Trollshaws). I suspect it’ll be the latter, and I am here for it. More beautiful scenery, quaint Hobbit houses, and light-hearted questing sounds perfect.
This certainly seems in line with the studio’s self-given freedom to flesh out older areas of Middle-earth instead of always having to push the storyline forward. My hopes are, as always, new cosmetics, mounts, and pets, but I’m sure the experience will be worthwhile.
The 15th anniversary
Weirdly, the mention of the game’s 15th birthday is the most subdued of all the letter. All of the anniversary content will be activated — which is substantial, I’ll grant you — and there’ll be a new gift and instance, but this is not headlining material.
I guess if I had one wish for the anniversary event, it would be for more Bingo Boffin adventures or scavenger hunt cards. But that’s not a party tree hill I’m willing to die on.
An overhauled business model
While Yondershire tickled my fancy, what really got me to sit up and exclaim in delight was seeing SSG commit to a serious overhaul of the game’s existing — and pricy — business model. In summary:
- All content up to and including Helm’s Deep (and presumably Gondor/Minas Tirith) will be unlocked and made free to all accounts forever.
- The High Elf race will be unlocked for everyone.
- Rune-keepers, Wardens, and Beornings will be unlocked for everyone.
- And if you’re subscribed, you’ll get all of the content up through War of the Three Peaks as part of that sub.
This is all really great stuff, especially on top of some of the additional free feature unlocks they did in the last update. It feels like the “free” of LOTRO just got way more substantial in a single blow here. Up to the doors of Mordor is a massive amount of content to be giving away before asking for money to either subscribe or buy additional expansions a la carte.
SSG is certainly making the subscription seem more valuable, too. By including all content save the most recent expansion, the studio finally brings LOTRO in line with most MMORPGs out on the market today.
As we’ve talked about many times before in this space, the confusing purchase options and high cost of acquiring all of the content was a major barrier to new and returning players, and SSG wisely removes as much of that barrier as possible. Of course, I’m interested in seeing how the studio plans to increase its revenues in other quarters (and slightly nervous about that in the age of lockboxes and NFTs), but I’m more than happy with the actual changes that we know here.
What are your thoughts on the producer’s letter and the future of this game? Let’s get a conversation going in the comments!