The Embracer Group, which slowly buy every video game publisher and studio on the markethave just announced that they have acquired Middle-earth Enterprises, the company that owns the rights to most of JRR Tolkien’s major works, including Lord of the Rings and the hobbit.
Some background: Middle-earth Enterprises was formerly a division of The Saul Zaentz Company, a Hollywood production studio that, in 1976, secured the rights to virtually everything to do with Tolkien except the publishing of the books themselves. Those rights were used to make the 1978 animated film and have never been fully sold since then only licensed to other companies — an operation overseen by Middle-earth Enterprises.
That means everything from Peter Jackson’s movies to EA’s video games to Amazon’s upcoming TV series, only to lend the Lord of the Rings license. Ownership still belonged to The Saul Zaentz Company. Or so far it has.
The Saul Zaentz Company put forward the sale of their rights for a dazzling $2 billion earlier this yearand while Embracer’s purchase price wasn’t disclosed in their announcement, you’d assume the price they paid would be somewhere in that ballpark. [Update: in a separate announcement, Embracer say the total cost for all the acquisitions they made today was SEK8.2 billion, which is around USD$770 million].
As the announcement saysthe purchase includes pretty much everything you would associate with Lord of the Rings outside the publication of the books themselves (the rights of which are owned by Harpercollins)including:
Major upcoming works set in Middle-earth, in which Middle-earth Enterprises has financial interests, include the critically acclaimed Amazon series The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power which premieres on September 2, 2022 and takes place thousands of years earlier the hobbit and Under the spell of the Ring; the animation film The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim (Warner Bros), slated for release in 2024, and the mobile game The Lord of the Rings: Heroes of Middle-earth (Electronic art).
What Embracer would like to do with the license in the future is also stated in the press release:
Other opportunities include exploring additional films based on iconic characters such as Gandalf, Aragorn, Gollum, Galadriel, Eowyn and other characters from JRR Tolkien’s literary works, continuing to provide fans with new opportunities to explore this fictional world through merchandising and other experiences .
With Embracer owning a ton of video game studios as well as board game company Asmodee (which in turn owns Fantasy Flight), you can expect a ton of licensed games to follow as well (note that Asmodee already owns the Lord of the Rings board game license).
It wouldn’t be an Embracer announcement, of course, with news that in addition to acquiring Middle-earth Enterprises, the company has also bought a ton of other things today, including physical copy specialists Limited Run Games, Tripwire Interactive (Killing Floor, chivalry), Tuxedo Labs (Cracks) and, in a bizarrely poetic move given the buyers in question, the Japanese studio Tatsujin. Their boss is Masahiro Yuge, a co-founder of Toaplan, the developers of Zero Wingthe game where the meme “All your base is ours” comes from.
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