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<I>Rings</I> Games Go on Despite End of Series

27 Feb, 2004 By: John Gaudiosi

Neil Young, VP and executive in charge of production at Electronic Arts (EA), talked about the company's plans to expand the “Lord of the Rings” movie license well beyond the releases of the last film on DVD.

The world's largest game publisher is developing The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (working title), a double-disc epic that will follow the events in all three films. The same team that worked on The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is developing this game in Redwood Shores, Calif. Steve Gray is executive producing the game this time, as Young has moved on to another property.

“We want this to be the definitive ‘Lord of the Rings' work for this generation of consoles,” Young said. “We're taking all the good things about the first two games and creating a more open Middle-earth game world and an evolving story line. The game will have a console role-playing game pace, with the player taking on the role of an active participant in this epic adventure.”

Young said that because the teams were limited by a concrete release window with the first two games, which shipped a month before the theatrical releases of the second and third films, they weren't able to include everything they wanted in those games.

EA's first game, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, combined elements from the first two films into a single game. Both of the EA games focused on action-oriented gameplay. The second game introduced multiplayer and online gameplay to the franchise.

“We really want to give fans everything they wished they could have in a ‘Lord of the Rings' game,” Young said.

The game will ship for PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube, PSP and Game Boy Advance this fall. A separate PC game, Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth, will ship later this year. The real-time strategy game is being created in EA's L.A. Studio by the team that created the “Command & Conquer” PC franchise. The game will focus on the battlesequences from all three films, allowing players to fight against armies of orcs.

Young said a separate team is working on a ‘Lord of the Rings' role-playing game for next-generation consoles like PS3 and Xbox Next, which will be ready for the launch of those systems. Although he did not elaborate on specifics, the advanced graphics capabilities of these machines should bring the actors from the film to vivid life in a scope not yet seen in a Hollywood licensed property.

“We have the video game rights to ‘The Lord of the Rings' for long enough to continue to develop this property,” Young said.

While EA has to stay within the framework of the movies (Vivendi Universal Games has the literary rights to J.R.R. Tolkien's book trilogy), the director's cuts of the three films give EA plenty of wiggle room to expand the property. And there are multiple game genres to explore, providing unique gameplay opportunities, even if the story and characters are the same.

With the anticipated New Line Home Entertainment double release of the theatrical and director's cut DVD versions of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King this year, as well as a boxed trilogy of DVDs from New Line Home Entertainment, EA will have plenty of marketing support to ride.

The Oscar publicity won't hurt the franchise, either.

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