Breaking the Hobbit habit

Electronic Arts’ and New Line’s prolific partnership for “The Lord of the Rings” vidgames is slowing down.

Vidgame publisher disclosed in its earnings conference call Thursday that it has indefinitely pushed back development of “The Lord of the Rings: The White Council,” a huge role-playing game that was originally skedded to come out this year for the PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Game is off EA’s release schedule for its next fiscal year, meaning it won’t come out until at least spring 2008 or may never be released.

Publisher is believed to have one other “Rings” game in the works, though it hasn’t scheduled it for release in the next year.

This year will be the first since 2002, when EA took the license and released a “Two Towers” tie-in, that the vidgame publisher doesn’t release a new “Rings” game. Each year since, it has regularly put out one, and sometimes several, new titles based on the fantasy franchise.

However, Midway is releasing a “Lord of the Rings” multiplayer online game, similar to “World of Warcraft,” this spring.

In the conference call, EA chief financial officer Warren Jenson told investors the publisher is “looking at the creative positioning and feature set on `The Lord of the Rings’ franchise.”

In 2005, publisher extended its licensing deal with New Line and book rights holder Saul Zaentz Co. through the end of 2007.

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