Video Games

Interview: Amazon Games’ CEO on How the Reborn Lord of the Rings MMO Will Learn from New World

The last four years have been a long road for Christoph Hartmann. Since he took over as CEO of Amazon Games at the end of 2018, he has witnessed cancellations. dismissal, and rumors of internal conflicts. In late 2021, the publisher was forced to cancel the Lord of the Rings MMO due to a rights dispute with Tencent.

Fast-forward to 2023, and Amazon games seem to be mostly on the upswing. The Lost Ark has successfully launched in his 2022, and a new Tomb Raider game is in development. Amazon Games has publishing agreements with a number of developers, primarily based in Asia. Even The Lord of the Rings is back from the dead, and Amazon is today set to completely reboot this nascent MMO, which Hartman claims is the publisher’s most ambitious project yet. announced that it had signed a contract with Embracer Group.

“It’s a completely new game because it has a much wider range of licenses…we all know the world is set and the characters are set, so obviously nothing changes “There’s really freedom in terms of gameplay features, and now you can do whatever you want, but the limit is what’s technically possible,” says Hartmann. Because something else is going on. Well, the mission we’re on, and fully supported by Embracer and fully supported by Middle-earth Enterprises, is to make the greatest and greatest MMO based on The Lord of the Rings. That’s it. That is our ambition. ”

Amazon Games Roller Coaster

It’s the latest peak in the rollercoaster of the last decade. The studio was founded in his 2014, and the first hires were Kim Swift (Portal 2) and Clint Hocking (Far Cry 2). His first three games were Breakaway, Crucible and New World, two of which were canceled before or shortly after launch. New World was a huge success at his 2021 launch, but was stymied by bugs and patchy support.

Hartman, who worked on the original Grand Theft Auto and also worked on the 2K game, joined Amazon Games in 2018. He is what he calls a sociable German-born German. “It’s the country of the Sound of Music” Hartman’s path into the games industry was through BMG Music before joining Rockstar Games in 1995. He draws on his own experience to shake off the challenges Amazon has faced in the past, arguing that roller coasters are “more high than low.” ”

“Every game publisher is a roller coaster ride at first,” he says. “Amazon tried to get their feet on the ground with games, but I think they just took an approach that was more of a technology company than a games and entertainment company…When they first brought me in, I had a deep experience with games. It made things better because it contributed to the gaming industry and gave us some much-needed rest space.

He lists some of the company’s recent accomplishments. Partnering with Bandai Namco on Blue Protocol. He signed a deal with NCSoft to publish Throne and Liberty and signed a deal to produce his next Tomb Raider game. The newly rebooted Lord of the Rings MMO will be developed by Amazon Games Orange County studios best known for developing New World and will be their biggest project to date.

“I want this to be the biggest MMO. I think,” Hartman explains. “There haven’t been that many titles before. I wanted the title to draw more people into the genre. The more people play, the more people they play with. That’s what I do.” It’s a dream.” And hopefully… it will be the biggest MMO title. ”

i want [Lord of the Rings] Become the biggest MMO

Getting here has not been an easy road. The original project was under development by Hong Kong-based game developer Leyou, but once Leyou was sold to his Tencent in 2021, talks quickly broke down and Amazon Games chose to pull out. bottom. Luckily for Amazon, Embracer Group bought Middle-Earth Enterprises the following year and agreed to the deal.

“We are very friendly with Embracer,” says Herman. “We already have Tomb Raider and their deals. And they were actually very interested, people were saying that Amazon cares so much about quality that they don’t want to ship games until they’re ready, and that we’re big. I know you’re thinking about it and you want to get things done.”

For this project, Amazon Games Orange County’s previous New World efforts will be examined under a microscope. From its early peak of over 900,000 players, it has suffered a sharp decline. Our current player base is around 20,000 on steam. New World is still supported by Amazon Games and is moving to a seasonal model with free and premium battle passes, but is struggling to revive its community.

Hartman said Amazon Games has learned “a lot” from the experience, noting that Amazon’s Orange County studio was founded in 2014 by Double Helix Games and is still relatively new. From that perspective, he calls his New World “a huge, huge studio.” Achievement. “

“How many studios do you know that have actually made a game this big with a new IP, a whole new team and proprietary technology? You can’t do that because if you look at all the big games, by the time something is announced, every game has been played two or three times before ‘, says Hartman.

When asked what exactly the studio learned from the experience, Hartman said, “You can’t just prepare for launch, you have to literally prepare for the next two years.” In particular, New World’s developers were “unprepared” for the game’s explosive popularity at launch, he says.

“As an afterthought, that’s the main lesson in making the best estimate,” Hartman admits. “If we were in a position to push more content, better content into the gaming community…we would have had no problems…perhaps we would have had a higher player retention rate than we do now. People still love it, we just put out the battle pass and the numbers went back up.”

Amazon Games recently signed a deal with Embracer Group to develop a Lord of the Rings MMORPG. Image Source: Amazon Games

Too many live service games?

For now, Hartman and Amazon Games are looking to the future. While the company has focused primarily on his PC so far, Hartmann says the next wave of releases will also be on consoles.

“We’re going into the console market,” Hartman says bluntly. “His first two titles were already in development, so he happened to be on PC.”

Amazon also continues to focus disproportionately on live-service games, an area that is becoming increasingly crowded as publishers try to replicate the successes of Fortnite, Call of Duty, Destiny, Genshin Impact and other major games. are doing. ‘Blue Protocol’, ‘Throne and Liberty’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ are all trying to cultivate their own dedicated audiences, but Hartman worries about stiff competition If so, he didn’t show it. He said the liquidity of the live services market, with younger players replacing older players, is enough to keep growing.

“I think taking risks is also very important for us, and that’s probably the biggest challenge for the games industry. It’s not about having enough or too many titles,” Hartmann says. “Are we going to take risks and try new things? Because people want new things and we know it’s a big bet, but we have to keep moving forward. I think that’s a bigger risk than having too many titles.We’re going to take risks to do new things, but can we really win the hearts of millions in the future?”

Looking ahead to Amazon’s Lord of the Rings MMO, Hartman said the publisher’s main goal is to use the license to attract fans who wouldn’t otherwise play MMOs. rice field.

“For me, getting a license is like a bonus,” Herrmann says. “The game itself has to be so good that everyone wants to play it. We want them to say yes. Maybe you know what it is, so give it a try. This is “Lord of the Rings”. I never played his MMO. ”…I definitely think this needs to be approached from a much broader perspective than just being another his MMO title. I want it to be competitive in the mass market. ”

Meanwhile, the Amazon Games roller coaster continues.

“We just keep going up the hill at a steady pace,” says Herman. The question is, will we climb some small hill in the Austrian Alps, or will we aim for Everest? don’t know. Some luck is also involved. It’s entertainment. But eventually we will be able to go up, not just go up and down. ”

Photo credit: Amazon Games.

Kat Bailey is IGN’s senior news editor and co-host of Nintendo Voice Chat. Any tips? Send her a DM at @the_katbot.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button