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Turbine Purchased: Don’t Freak Out Yet…

Conquering Middle-Earth in one fell swoop

So, much to everyone’s surprise, the news came down yesterday that Turbine has officially been purchased by Warner Brothers Home Entertainment. Player reaction has been characterized by, really, their indecision on how to react. The fact is, we really don’t know a lot about how WB will manage a major MMO like LotRO or DDO. Still, in a lot of ways, the not knowing is probably the scariest thing of all.

So why does this matter?

Before this point, Turbine had been a wholly private company, allowing them total freedom and control of their stable of MMOs. They were freer to take risks with their IPs, backtrack, and develop on their own time schedule. That’s no longer true. As a subsidiary of Warner Bros., they are effectively relegated to employee status, with the Board of Directors now calling the shots.

Understandably, lots of people are worried. We’re not sure whether this will mean quicker production schedules (read: rushed), lower quality content, or, most importantly, the game being pushed in a more businesslike direction. Thus far, LotRO has been the staple mainstream MMO that valued world and lore. They actively support the roleplay community. They’re active in listening to what players want and enjoy in the game. In short, they’re one of the best and most responsive MMO studios in the business.

Changing gears towards a “more money nao” model is a genuine fear, when faced with the massive faceless Warner Bros. corporation.

Lines like this, cut from the Financial Times, don’t help that fear:

“Warner Bros. is buying North America’s largest independent online gaming studio in an effort to spread its social networking and micro-payments technology across its video games and home video business.”

Don’t freak out yet

If you read a little further in that article, it begins to seem a lot more likely that they’re not talking about LotRO.

[Turbine’s] technology would allow Warner to add “connectivity, micro-transactions and community” features to all its console games.”

Further…

Warner saw opportunities to use such technologies to boost home entertainment revenues for its core film business. “ Ultimately it has the potential to be the engine for B2C [business to consumer] relations for all of Warner Bros.,”

Another WB product (2011)

It looks to me like Turbine’s technology is powerful enough that WB wants to leverage it into the rest of their business. Way to go, Turbine Team!

The rest of that piece indicates nothing to make us think that they’re planning on messing with Turbine’s winning formula.

And, frankly, they’d be crazy to try. LotRO, from my perspective, has been getting more attention then ever and a big boost in player activity over this past year. There’s not a time I log on and don’t run into another player and bustling chat panel, even in the wee hours of the morning. All of this is a direct result of the game being properly managed and Turbine being a company that we’ve all come to trust.

Not to mention, LotRO isn’t a micro-transaction game and WB isn’t Blizzard. They’ve said before that they have no interest in introducing a cash shop. Hopefully, they keep to that sentiment.

Honestly, we really don’t know where this whole thing will wind up. But, really, let’s not worry too much yet. After all…

This could turn out to be a good thing

PONIES! GET YOUR PONIES HERE!

Let’s also not forget that Warner Brothers Home Entertainment isn’t new to the gaming world. They’ve published other big hits, such as Batman: Arkham Asylum and Scribblenauts. Not to mention, they’re also working on publishing LoTR: Aragorn’s Quest (2010) and War in the North (2011).

The Massively article, penned by our friend Syp, also makes note of the fact that Warner Bros. will also own the Lord of the Rings rights in their entirety, when it was previously split between them both. I’m not sure what this will mean but I’d imagine: freedom. No more big name bad guys just named “Necromancer.”

As MMO fans, we’re known for becoming invested in our games. A lot of times, the nervousness events like this inspire makes us lash out and cry doom from the rooftops. But, like Blue Kae points out, we probably won’t feel any impact from this change for another few months. Let’s not worry yet.

Like I said, this might be a good thing 🙂

4 comments

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  1. Professor Beej

    I very rarely freak out over this kind of acquisition. Sure, sometimes it can affect development schedules and quality of the products, but many companies won’t pick up a flailing developer unless there is promise in what they’re doing. A larger company can (but not necessarily will) provide direction and objectivity a smaller firm just doesn’t have.

    I’m with you. I don’t know why, but I’m choosing to see this as a glass-half-full moment. If my wife’s obsession with Scribblenauts is any indicator, we can expect some neat stuff from Turbine from here on out. 😉

  2. Cindy

    Yes I don’t see that as immediate and certain doom. Most commenters on Massively were more then happy to inform me that I was naive… lol?

    If anything I expect bigger content patches, and mayyyybe some micro transactions but I agree with you on that also, I think it’s a separate project Warners is thinking of in that department.

    Maybe a micro transaction based Harry Potter MMO? What? I can dream! I don’t know, maybe that’s complete insanity but I found the news more exciting then traumatizing.

  3. Blue Kae

    It’s way too soon to have anything but an emotional reaction, but LotRO has always been a consistently quality game and very true to the books, so change of any type makes me queasy. Hopefully we’ll see some Turbine forums posts in the near term with some clarifications.

    I thought it was interesting that Patience posted at 7pm yesterday, I think in an attempt to let the player community to vent overnight before they would expect to see staff follow-ups.

  4. We Fly Spitfires

    I’m sure it will turn out fine. WB didn’t buy Turbine so they could destroy the game and lose all of its players. Plus, WB own pretty much everything so maybe they just fancies a MMORPG study to add to their collection…

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