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Amazon Teams on ‘Lord of the Rings’-Prequel Massively Multiplayer Game

Amazon announced plans for a massively multiplayer online game set in J.R.R. Tokien’s Middle-earth — but in an era well before the events in “The Lord of the Rings.”

Amazon Game Studios has teamed with Leyou Technologies, a Hong Kong-based games company. The companies will jointly develop the free-to-play game for PC and console platforms, and Amazon Game Studios will market and publish the title globally with the exception of China, which will be managed by Leyou.

The companies didn’t announce planned release date or other details. The project is separate from Amazon Studios’ massive adaptation of “The Lord of the Rings,” which encompasses a multi-season production commitment produced in cooperation with the Tolkien Estate and Trust, HarperCollins, and Warner Bros.’ New Line Cinema — but clearly Amazon sees synergies between the two.

Last fall, Leyou-owned Athlon Games announced a long-term licensing agreement with Middle-earth Enterprises, a division of the Saul Zaentz Co. that owns exclusive worldwide rights to Tolkien’s literary works, to develop and publish a video game based on “The Lord of the Rings.” At the time, Athlon said it was “working with a partner developer” — which, it turns out, is Amazon. The MMO game will be set in “a time long before the events of ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ exploring lands, people and creatures never seen before by fans of the Tolkien universe,” according to Athlon.

The Amazon announcement on the “LOTR”-based game comes after the ecommerce giant’s games studio laid off dozens of developers during E3, according to a report by Kotaku.

Amazon Game Studios earlier this year released “The Grand Tour Game,” an episodic racing game based on Amazon Studios’ “The Grand Tour” car show, featuring over 200 playable scenes from the show featuring more than 70 cars and 36 tracks. The studio also is developing “New World,” a sandbox MMO in which players engage in a struggle to conquer and colonize a “new world” wilderness, and “Crucible,” a third-person, last-one-standing game “of trust and betrayal.”

Amazon Game Studios is led by VP Christoph Hartmann, former president of Take-Two Interactive and founder of 2K Games, who joined Amazon last summer.

“We’re committed to bringing customers games of the highest quality, both with our own original [intellectual property] as well as beloved cultural pillars like ‘The Lord of the Rings,’” Hartmann said in a statement. “Tolkien’s Middle-earth is one of the richest fictional worlds in history, and it gives our team of experienced MMO developers — from the same studio developing ‘New World’ — tremendous opportunity to play and create.”

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