While watching the official LOTROstream recently, I noted that there was still a lot of LOTRO related merchandise adorning staff desks at Turbine’s offices. I recollect in the past that mouse mats, mugs and other items use to be available for sale in the Warner Bros. store. There was an initial marketing campaign associated with the launch of the game in 2007 and another in 2010 when the game converted to F2P, both of which required a stock of merchandise for promotional reasons. Sadly a search of the Warner Bros. store has shown that no such material is available any longer. Furthermore considering where LOTRO is in its lifespan, there is not likely to be any further stock produced.
Merchandise such as T-shirts, mugs, mouse mats and stickers are often used as marketing tools when a game launches or new content is released. Take for example the Charr Plush that was in great demand back in August 2012 when Guild Wars 2 was first commercially available. The stock of such items are often limited and not always maintained over games lifespan. Thus these items go from being available to all, to the province of a collector in a very short period of time. Perhaps there is often no commercially sustainable long term market for such products and the initial batch is produced at a loss for the sole purpose of promotion.
However this is not always the case. Guild Wars 2 at present enjoys a healthy range of products. Mass Effect has been and gone, yet the franchise has evolved a strong following among gamers, very much akin to cult Movies and TV shows. The EA store still has a substantial amount of merchandise for sale including some expensive products such as collector’s edition models, hoodys and jackets. Activision has a similar line of apparel for the Call of Duty franchise; although this is far more understandable consider the financial success of the IP and the target demographic. There is also a wealth of merchandise associated with popular titles from the mobile gaming market, although I think this is a core aspect of the business model, rather than an addition to it as with MMOs.
One of the more interesting examples of game related merchandise is FigurePrints bespoke miniature figure service. The company can make a 3D replica of your in-game avatar from World of Warcraft or a section of your own world from Minecraft. Considering the passion that is prevalent among the LOTRO community with its emphasis upon roleplay, it’s a shame that such a service has never been implemented by Turbine for LOTRO or DDO. Perhaps the complexities of the licensing arrangement have something to do with this. Dealing with third party intellectual properties always comes with its own unique set of problems