The Lord of the Rings is a very lucrative franchise, so from a business perspective you can understand why game developers want to maximise its use. At the time of the films release we saw a glut of console based titles of varying quality. Recently there has been a resurgence of similar material, such as War in the North and Aragorn’s Quest. So it really didn’t come as a surprise when I stumbled across Guardians of Middle-Earth, a upcoming action real-time strategy fantasy video game being developed by Monolith Productions and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.
I had a strong sense of deja vu when I watched the trailer below featuring gameplay footage and instantly thought back to War in the North. As you can see Guardians of Middle-Earth looks polished and slick, but for me I don’t associate this sort of genre of game with Tolkien’s work. However, as it is a console title I am not really the target audience. Furthermore I am sure that Warner Bros. have done their market research and have established a gap in the market. I guess that there are fans out there who would like to see their favourite genre of game given a Middle-Earth makeover, regardless of it’s alleged suitability.
You’ll notice that due to the terms of the license, once again this is a game based around the films depiction of Middle-Earth. Although I do enjoy Peter Jackson’s movies I do get a little concerned that they are often the first introduction to Tolkien’s work for many people. This can potentially skew a new fans understanding and perception of the stories, restricting them from the wealth of other interpretations that are available.
We have not reached the point yet with The Lord of the Rings, where if you shave a chimp and stick the logo on it, it will sell regardless, unlike other franchises such as Star Wars. However, with the release of The Hobbit only six months away, there is scope for a huge increase in Tolkien related products. Quality control may not necessarily be maintained. Personally I think there is a great deal of dignity and artistic merit in Tolkien’s work beyond just there literary worth and this should be taken into account before just arbitrarily using the IP. However, I suspect such notions are alien in the world of business.
The Guardians of Middle-Earth will be available in the fall 2012.