The rights to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit have been acquired by tech conglomerate Embracer Group as part of a number of new deals, but the purchase has been met with a sense of wary distrust from fans.
In a press release (opens in new tab) early this morning, Embracer said that it had "entered into an agreement to acquire Middle-earth Enterprises," granting it potential access to "a vast intellectual property catalogue and worldwide rights to motion pictures, video games, board games," and much more.
The price of the deal has not been confirmed, but some terms have been outlined. Middle-earth Enterprises "will continue to operate independently under the exisiting [...] leadership team," but it's clear that Embracer is hoping to expand the franchise - specifically, it mentions "opportunities includ[ing] exploring additional movies based on iconic characters such as Gandalf, Aragorn, Gollum, Galadriel, Eowyn and other characters from the literary works of J.R.R. Tolkein."
While that sounds as though it might be exciting news for fans of Middle-earth, the announcement has been met with a wave of uncertainty on social media. Journalist Rebekah Valentine tweeted to comment on how "a giant holding company literally owning the rights to Tolkein's books is just like so profoundly antithetical to their spirit." Elsewhere, Game Developer's Bryant Francis discussed their concerns about the sheer number of franchises Embracer now owns alongside Lord of the Rings.
Embraced Group doesn’t seem to have done badly by the company’s bought so far but the Warner Bros. Discovery stuff has me on edge.August 18, 2022
Over on the Lord of the Rings subreddit, a similar sentiment arose. User munki17 (opens in new tab) suggested that the focus on individual characters could lead to an "incoming Gandalf movie, Aragorn movie, Legolas and Gimli movie," adding "I hope I'm wrong." Another user was even less confident, saying (opens in new tab) "You think Amazon was bad? Prepare for made-up spin-off movies and series. LorR is the new cow for money like [Star Wars]. They will milk it dry until nobody cares about the franchise anymore."
Even if not everyone seems to share that more pessimistic outlook, right now there's little enthusiasm for a potential glut of new games and films appearing on social media. Embracer does seem to suggest it'll continue the somewhat hands-off approach it's brought to other acquisitions in recent years, but it's unlikely that any company would look to acquire one of the world's biggest franchises and not look to capitalise on that purchase as soon as possible.
Along with Middle-earth Enterprises, Embracer also announced today that it had purchased a number of other companies. They include physical games producer Limited Run Games, Killing Floor developer Tripwire Studios and Teardown's Tuxedo Labs, and gaming and music effects company Singtrix.
Just this week, a new Lord of the Rings game was announced from the team that helped bring Middle-earth to life.