Turbine Renews LOTRO License Until 2017?

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Community Manager Sapience made a few casual remarks today, on a fairly minor thread over on the Official LOTRO Forums ,that appears to lay to rest the issue of Turbine’s license renewal with Middle-earth Enterprises.

“I just wanted to drop in and address the concerns surrounding the license, again. We have said as far back as July of 2013, we plan to support LOTRO for many years to come. I really want to be as clear as possible on this subject to avoid any further confusion or misunderstanding. The license was renewed.

I think it’s rather clear and direct. I can’t think of a more direct way to say the license was renewed than to say the license was renewed.

We have an agreement that runs through 2017.”

Now I would have thought that a statement such as this would have been announced in a more public and formal manner. It is an important issues after all. Ultimately without a license renewal, LOTRO would have been shut down at the end of the year. I also find the way Mr. Heaton chooses to express himself some what curious. I’m sure I am not alone in detecting a hint of irritation behind his word, like a parent having to remind a child of something they’ve stated a thousand time before. However, at first glance this looks like positive news.

However it may also be prudent to examine the exact words used. The devil is often in the detail or in this case semantics. If Turbine have a three year extension on the LOTRO license and intend to operate the game during that time, then why not say so in clear and unequivocal terms? We live in an age of spin and doublespeak. The public by and large prefers plain language. Therefore I advice a degree of scepticism. “We have an agreement that runs through 2017″ may well prove to be an honest statement. Then again it may not.

17 thoughts on “Turbine Renews LOTRO License Until 2017?

  1. Whiteberry says:

    I see no reason why Turbine would repeatedly say that they will support LOTRO and that the license has been renewed if this is not the truth. If it was not true they would just have kept silent like they do with everything else they don’t want to answer.

    No matter how you spin it then the meaning of these statements by Sapience is clear. I really don’t think Turbine will come back and say “but we said ‘through’ not ‘until’ so boohoo at all our players” or something along those lines. I have seen nothing in the past to suggest Turbine would want to deceive its players so blatantly, nor do I think the game is dying (i.e. that these would be the last evil plans from Turbine to get money out of players).

    As said before asking questions and being critical are healthy in my book and perhaps I am naive, but I really think this topic has been beaten to death.

  2. Roger Edwards says:

    First off, if this turns out to all be above board then that’s tickety boo with me. I like LOTRO and always have.

    I appreciate that there are a lot of legal and business issues that impact upon what a Community Manager can and cannot say. Hence we frequently see the use of very couched terms. But this can swing both ways. Words can also be used to dodge difficult questions and provide retrospective cover if it is so needed at a future date.

    If we take everything that has been said at face value, the LOTRO license was renewed last July. That was while Helm’s Deep was in development and prior to the pre-order announcement. The projected earnings from the expansion sales, probably had an impact upon the decision to renew the license.

    However, if sales of Helm’s Deep were low and revenue across the game was down, then the calculated risk in paying for another three years license, may well prove to be folly.

    The lack of an expansion this year for LOTRO is still very curious. Also can anyone confirm if Infinite Crisis has formerly launched yet? is Turbine in financial trouble. As it’s business record ultimately are part of Warner Bros. it’s hard to find specific information.

    I have worked to two major projects in my career that have run in to problems and eventually had the plug pulled on them. In both cases, there was notable deviation from established business practises, extremely ambiguous communications and a PR department that never new what was truly going on, until it was too late.

    So what I am saying is, if Turbine wish to clarify their position, so much the better. If things continue to tick over in LOTRO and we see new content then again that’s fine with me.

    But I also see no harm in pausing for a moment and considering all possibilities. The good as well as the bad. It is not negative or paranoid, as some would have you believe. Just a facet of any analytical process surely?

  3. It’s true that “We have an agreement that runs through 2017.” could be interpreted in different ways. For example, it could mean that Kate and Fernando Paiz are holding a piece of paper that describes their commitment to have lunch together every Wednesday until 2017. And taken in isolation, the statement above that, “The license was renewed.” could refer to the license having been renewed in 2008 (until 2014).

    However, no lawyers worth their salt would let Turbine get away with making forward-looking statements like this if they didn’t really mean what a casual reader would expect them to mean. As a casual reader myself, I’d interpret this to mean Turbine and Middle-earth Enterprises have agreed to extend Turbine’s license through 2017 to develop, sell, and operate a massively-multiplayer online game using materials from selected works of J.R.R. Tolkien.

    Perhaps Turbine is just trying to hold onto an official press release for another part of the news cycle.

  4. Before I make a comment, I need to preface with full disclosure. Sapience is a personal friend outside of the game and his role as community manager. That is not namedropping, but as a sometime gaming journalist, it would be unethical for me not to mention it.

    That being said, Turbine has given Sapience a far longer leash than most game studios give their community managers. As an example of the other extreme, just look at how tight-lipped BioWare’s SWTOR community team is. I feel bad for them because they know so much and can say so very very little. If you want to see PR-speak, check out their livestreams sometime.

    So, when you’re quoting Sapience as saying ‘we have an agreement until 2017′, and he was specifically speaking in the context of whether or not they have a license, that means their license is in force until 2017. He would not have been permitted to specify a date unless there was something legally binding backing that up. Now, when you said that his tone in the post sounded a bit irritated, that I can understand, because he actually sounded a touch irritated when people pestered him about it in the voice chat of last week’s stream. When folks’re flogging a dead horse that rears its zombified head every couple of months even though the question was answered months ago, I’d get kinda vexed about it too.

    Honestly, tho, I think you’re going a bit overboard with the worry for Turbine’s financial health and there not being an expansion this year. They wouldn’t have inked the agreement for another three years with the money-loving MEE if there was that much risk involved. The game has a natural ending to it, much like the actual novels did. Once we get to Mordor and players have a year to screw around fighting on the Fields of Pelennor or riding to the Black Gates with Aragorn and company, there isn’t much more to the story unless they turn the game into a Fourth Age sandbox, and aside from us roleplayers, I can’t honestly imagine many endgame-happy players are going to stick around for that. Three years is enough time to get us to the lore’s endgame and futz around with it until we’re bored sick of it. I predict there will be an ending to the game, and given what news we know right now, I believe we’ll get to the story’s natural closure and then it will eventually be shut down.

    Beyond that, your fears and worries are based on whether or not you believe someone was being dishonest or not. All I can say is that you do my friend an injustice if you think he’s being disingenuous. Whether you believe me, cos, y’know, you don’t know me from a hole in the wall, eh, I’m not worried about it. Or the future of the game, for that matter.

    Your mileage may vary.

  5. Roger Edwards says:

    A few points for clarification. I’m not “worried” about anything. If LOTRO stays functional for another 3 years that’s fine with me. If it closed tomorrow, well that’s life.

    The question was not answered months ago. What I mean by that is, it wasn’t answred to the satisfaction of the average player. It was alluded to in the usual manner. IE Lawyer-speak. However, let us not waste precious energy and time dissecting the semantics of past and current statements.

    This is NOT a matter of whether I believe your “friend” Mr Heaton is lying. I personally have nothing against the man. What I would say is he may well not be in the loop or privy to every decision at Turbine.

    As for your statement ” They wouldn’t have inked the agreement for another three years with the money-loving MEE if there was that much risk involved”, again that can be disputed. I have seen many a big company make poor decisions and throw good money after bad. I’m sure you have to.

    Once again, I do happily agree that things may well work out well and the game reaches a natural conclusion. But there is also scope that it may not. Many people have a blind spot when it comes to this possibility. No one seems to want to countenance this for a moment.

    Apparently you’re not worried. Fine. No one is asking you to be. But will you not acknowledge the fact that things could end differently than your above prediction?

  6. There’s no need for air-quotes around the word friend. Bog standard definition there, mate. Can’t say what decisions he is or isn’t privy to, and I suppose we can speculate all day long. It’s reasonable to say that no one employee is privy to all of the decisions of every other employee higher up the food chain, so that’s not specific to this situation.

    However, I’ll politely disagree with the thought that there needs to be or /must/ be concern for the future of the game to reach its natural conclusion. At this point, the game has been around since 2007 as a fully-launched venture, they’ve proven themselves profitable for its parent companies, and the overall LotR franchises are even closer to central in the public consciousness than ever due to the Hobbit movies.

    Yes, it’s possible that Turbine chose to overlook unacceptable risk and threw a large amount of money at the now-late Saul Zaentz’s company to ensure they could finish their story. Whether it’s a poor decision isn’t up to either of us… it’s up to the shareholders who will or will not see some kind of return on their investment.

    As to what could happen between now and 2017? Well, anything /could/ happen. However, in lawyer-speak, once contracts are signed, it takes an awful lot to break them, especially for this sort of thing. So yes, it’s /possible/ that Something Could Happen that would derail the basic casual speculation I came up with. The entire data center could crash (again) and we lose far more hardware than just the server that hosted the lotteries. Every single player could abruptly choose to go play some other game and suddenly there’s only two people in every single Bree. Some beancounter high up at WB might say ‘screw this for a game of soldiers’ and pull the plug because he wanted to practice his golf swing. Without an actual nugget of information to go on, I see it as little more than predictin’ doom an’ gloom with no real cause for concern now that we know for sure there is a license until 2017. It’s mostly in Turbine’s hands to ensure they have a quality game to make it work playing until then. So, since I feel confident in what they’ve done so far, it’s all good.

  7. Aeirya says:

    But the question wasn’t answered last year. He said something along the lines of “We plan to support the game for many years”. He was asked to state point blank if it had been renewed and he never would.

    I’m sure for his real-life friends, Rick Heaton is a lovely person, otherwise you’d not be friends. ;) But at his job, it would appear he acts like a different person. He’s a proven liar who often treats his customers with outright disdain and lets his personal feelings and grudges get in the way. He’s created a downright caustic atmosphere on the game’s forums. It’s honourable for you to try to stick up for him, but I’m afraid he’s dug a deep hole for himself with his evasiveness and rudeness over the years.

  8. Adam Parsons says:

    “When folks’re flogging a dead horse that rears its zombified head every couple of months even though the question was answered months ago”

    As has been stated, we have never had anything approaching a definative statement on this, we’ve had ‘we plan to for many year’ type statements, like there were plans never to put armour in the store, or charge for the epic story, etc etc. I couldn’t care less about any of these issues, so I do not invest them with any personal irritation or bitterness, merely use them as some examples to illustrate the fact that statements which were interpretable had been issued before, then those loop holes use to justify a clear change in policy, or to get around breaking the ‘promise’. Understandably when there is a history of such things, people tend to be a little more insistent on clarity. Once bitten, twice shy and all that.

  9. Roger Edwards says:

    I think you may have hit upon a tangible possibility when you said “Some beancounter high up at WB might say ‘screw this for a game of soldiers’ and pull the plug because he wanted to practice his golf swing”. Although more realistically such a decision would be based on the revenue forecasts for the game.

    You seem happy and content with you conclusions. I disagree with most of your points and how you arrived at them but I’m sure you feel the same about mine. I see no benefit is doing one of those lengthy dissections of your post you see on forums and I can’t see either of us making any major changes to our respective positions, so I guess we are done here.

  10. seanas says:

    Hi Roger

    just wanted to pop in and say that you’ve hit on a rich seam of LOTRO exclusives that provide answers to questions players have been asking for a while – many thanks!

    And yes, I understand your fear fully: the bean-counter-at-WB scenario is the worrying one. Luckily, SZC/MEE have always been good at writing water-tight contracts, so if Turbine have signed up until 2017, you can be sure that MEE are getting paid until 2017 regardless – and hence, if the bean-counter is killing LOTRO, he or she is doing so only because the savings are greater than the continuing outlay to MEE.

    And as you’ve just recently broken the story that a: there’re no (expensive) instances or raids coming to LOTRO and b: there are very few designers working on it, and all are shared across multiple projects, we know that the cost-savings from cancelling LOTRO can’t be very big – and no way larger than the outlays to MEE. Thus, it will always make sense to keep LOTRO open, until that day in 2017 when the licence expires, at which point we can expect LOTRO to be summarily shuttered.

    And relatedly, and to add something slightly new to the discussion: MOBA’s are much more profitable than MMO’s (running costs, sunk development costs, expected pace of development, graphical quality, etc) so we can expect more resources to be pushed at Infinite Crisis than LOTRO: I know, from a completely different persepective, that WB are very bullish on Infinite Crisis, so yeah… LOTRO, legacy purchase :(

    Personally, I think that LOTRO suffered from the delays to The Hobbit: I really do believe that the move into Mirkwood after Moria was supposed to dovetail, in some way, the path traced by The Hobbit movie(s) as it (they) were released – but they got pushed back so far that the Mirkwood move became a dead-end diversion (and more wasted resources). I know, that’s not the point of this discussion, but I think that mis-steps in LOTRO’s development influence it’s current (non-)development situation.

  11. Roger Edwards says:

    All I’ve done is been in the right place at the right time.

    I was writing the summary of the Gilrain event and was checking the unofficial forums to see if any one else had participated and saw that Fred had collated the details from the Twitch TV chat. As for the license issue, I was just browsing the official forums and stumbled across the relevant thread.

    I find it quite ironic that none of the professional sites seems to do anything similar and use both these resources to their advantage. Also as they have access to Turbine more readily than you or I, why do they never ask any pertinent questions? Isn’t that what journalists to do?

  12. seanas says:

    you have, of course, identified the major weakness of the game press… if they rock the boat too much with developers too much, or ask questions that the developers dont want to hear, they lose access to the exclusives releases they need to drive their click-throughs.

    it’s not just limited to games, of course; every other major consumer media (as: cars, house n garden, fashion, etc) have this problem; it’s inherent in specialist media.

    It’s also not just with LOTRO: I’m playing WoT mostly, these days, and far and away the most comprehensive WoT news comes from a fan site; and the writer of that site is quite clear about the fact that, were he to do what he does officially, he wouldn’t have the freedom to report what he does. He can, and you can, because – at best – you rely on google adwords for revenue. A site like Massively relies on a lot more than google adwords, and thus has a lot more to lose by pushing hard on things developers are happier not having to answer directly.

    And related to the WoT fan site (it’s called For the Record, but I won’t link to it as I don’t want my comment being eaten by a spam filter), it would be worthy for a LOTRO site to do something similar, such as you’ve been doing: trawling unofficial sites and official sites and aggregating information.

    And just finally, and personally: having no new instances and raids means I can more easily come back: having to grind hard once I hit level cap in order to join the end-game has been one of the main factors keeping me out of LOTRO since I left. knowing that it doesn’t matter, that I can run around in quest-gear to explore the world makes me much more likely to re-log. However, the population of raiders must be feeling totally betrayed right about now…. raiding has always been a minority activity in LOTRO, but being told you’re so minor that you’re being done away with entirely never makes anyone inclined to play more…

  13. caiocast says:

    The game still with unfinished art, animation and bugs.. things with almost 10 years maybe.

    After Moria, the narration, cinematics and more value for the epic moment become “in-game animations” very poor and uncreative to tell the history… give a awful weight for the age factor.

    The game core is now smaller, repetitive, limited to a poor design of solutions for a low budget for sure… Helms Deep and Rohan are just waste of space in major areas, the engine is crying to keep the enviroment, even using a very good internet connection and a top PC, the war steed is pathetic, lots of trees, rocks and 2d sprites for grass, killing the engine stability… is too old for such weight, need a huge update, not some touchs to keep the copy and pasting.

    Warner probably has no intentions to put more Money on this old tech, the combat still acceptable, but the class trait is just lame, something coming from the kids themepark, Skyrim “perks” but worse, less maleable.

  14. Brian says:

    There is a rumor that an upstart young development team obtained a license from WB to develop a beta version of a new LotR MMO. The tentative title is “World of Tolkien.” I’d take it with a grain of salt personally.

  15. caiocast says:

    Sounds a rumor indeed.

    Another problem here, is the free2play itself.. this system is a poison for the creativity. The Market around this model is shameless, you have ways to buy all sorts of useless stuff or worse, get a high level with no efforts! you buy even updates for skills, is awful!

    The free2play is a disease for the game enviroment, exposing the too Young, or dumb, to all sorts of negotiations, the influence to buy is present all the time, you Always have that little icon with “pay to win.”

    free2play is like pay the rent, but still need pay for the content inside your house too, all rooms.

    I have no respect for free2play anymore, is far away the solution for the payed model, is just a casino, the worst kind of theme park ever created.

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