Embracer Group, the company buying parent of Asmodee and Dark Horse, has bought Middle-earth Enterprises.
Middle-earth Enterprises manages the intellectual property (IP) to The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit novels and related material. The Saul Zaentz Company sold Middle-earth for an undisclosed amount, although the asking price is believed to be around $2 billion.
The deal gives Embracer control of movies, video games, board games, theme parks, stage shows and merch. The book/print publication rights remain with HarperCollins and the Tolkien Estate.
It is the first time the rights to the iconic fantasy series have been sold since 1976 when The Saul Zaentz Company bought them. The sale to Embracer comes just ahead of Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power series. The streaming platform’s success or lack of it will significantly impact the value of the IP.
Gamers have been caught in license transfer squabbles before. In 2019, Cubicle 7 announced the surprise scrapping of The Lord of the Rings RPG and The One Ring after a disagreement with Sophisticated Games. Sophisticated Games worked with Saul Zaentz.
Last week, Free League Publishing, which picked up the RPG deal from Cubicle 7, announced the 5e new Lord of the Rings RPG. Their version of The One Ring has been a considerable Kickstarter success.
However, Asmodee is a Free League competitor and owns Edge, a Spanish publisher. Also, last week, Edge published Adventures in Rokugan, the 5e version of The Legend of Five Rings. Edge also has the Star Wars RPG rights.
Games Workshop publishes the Middle-eath Strategy Battle Game.
I speculate that both Free League and Games Workshop will be watchful of the new deal.
This week, Weta Workshop, the special effects company that worked on the movie, announced a partnership with Take-Two’s Private Division for a new Lord of the Rings computer game.
Embracer also owns a slate of computer games companies, and it is easy to see why they were attracted to the expensive IP.
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