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Fantasy game maker is taking on a big rival: Amazon

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https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2020/01/13/fantasy-game-maker-taking-big-rival-amazon/eRg12aODnJCG2vXFGGX3VL/story.html?fbclid=IwAR2tNou3AaChTIIJ39qGAE5C2E1APNpBO53KXaKPmpEv6qwq_hrYEBKJ83A

Fantasy game maker is taking on a big rival: Amazon
By Hiawatha Bray

Amazon is now preparing to invade Middle Earth. And only a little-known Needham video game company stands in its way.

Standing Stone Games is the maker of the fantasy video game “Lord of the Rings Online,” inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic tale of mythical adventure and designed to be played by thousands of people at a time. Such a game is known in the business as an MMO, or massive multiplayer online game.

Standing Stone is facing its own battle for survival as Amazon.com spends as much as $1 billion on a TV series based on Tolkien’s work, and is developing its own “Lord of the Rings” MMO game. Amazon began working on the new game last summer, in cooperation with the Hong Kong game developer Leyou Technologies Holdings, though it hasn’t revealed when it will be released.

Though nervous about Amazon’s looming competition, Standing Stone executives are a long way from panicking.

“Are we worried and wary about having a competing game? Of course,” said executive producer Robert Ciccolini. “They are an excellent company that has a lot of marketing power.”

Ciccolini even sees a way his company could benefit from Amazon’s investment, by generating enough new interest in Tolkien’s work to steer customers to his company’s product.

“The Lord of the Rings series will reinvigorate everything Lord of the Rings,” he said. “Having this exposure to Tolkien is usually good for us.”

In fact, Amazon may not be the fearsome giant in this fight, given the company’s spotty track record in game development.

“I’m skeptical that Amazon is going to do anything right,” said Michael Pachter, a gaming analyst at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.

Amazon Game Studios, founded in 2014, has yet to generate a major success. Indeed, just last June, the gaming unit announced substantial layoffs, as well as the cancellation of several games then under development.

Amazon declined to comment on its plans for the game.

Wanda Meloni, chief executive of the research firm M2 Insights, figures it’s not Standing Stone that needs to prove itself. “The pressure is squarely on Amazon to succeed,” she said.

Still, it’s Amazon, a global giant with more money than Sauron, against Standing Stone, a low-profile independent game developer that can’t call for help from a rich corporate parent.

The Lord of the Rings game, known to its players as LOTRO, and Standing Stone’s other online game, “Dungeons & Dragons Online,” were originally developed by Turbine, a game company founded in the mid-1990s. Turbine launched Lord of the Rings in 2006. As with other online games, such as the better-known “World of Warcraft,” players paid a monthly subscription fee. But in 2010, Rings switched to a “freemium” approach. Basic play is free but special tools and weapons that make the game more exciting can be purchased.

In the same year, Turbine was acquired by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, part of the giant Time Warner media company. The new owners poured millions into a game called “Infinite Crisis,” a massive online fighting game based on characters from another Time Warner media property, DC Comics, such as Superman and Batman.

But that game, released in 2015, was a massive flop. The following year, Time Warner spun off Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online into a new independent company, Standing Stone. Time Warner has since been acquired by AT&T and is now named WarnerMedia.

Like most other MMO operators, Standing Stone won’t reveal how many people have signed up to play its game, but Ciccolini said that on a typical day they see about 10,000 players logged in at the same time.

Not everybody comes to fight battles or attempt perilous quests. For some, Rings Online is a social hangout. Ciccolini said one player, a Tolkien expert, conducts seminars on the writer and his work. The software includes a feature to let gamers perform music for the entertainment of other players; sometimes several get together and hold in-game concerts.

That social aspect may make it difficult for some faithful players to leave their friends behind and switch from LOTRO to the Amazon game.

“I’d need to know more about it before I decide to try it,” said one player, Joris Benzidane, who works as a translator in La Rochelle, France. “However if I play it, it will be on top of LOTRO and certainly not instead of LOTRO.”

For Josh Riggins, an operations manager in Tacoma, Wash., LOTRO has become a family affair. “My parents (in their 60s) and my kids (8 & 9) all play,” Riggins wrote in an e-mail.

“The casual player (who plays for free anyway) might move to Amazon’s game, but that won’t bother the hard-core LOTRO players. Also, Tolkien fandom is such that many players will play both.”

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Looks like Severlin answered the questions with a sense of truth. 10k log ons per day. He is including alt cycling in this count, so at optimum the number is more like 8k and possibly much less. Anyway, let's stick with his number of 10K. The last expansion's price was from $40 to 140$.

The rest of what he says is being underplayed. They sure are worried and though more Tolkien world exposure does indeed captivate generally more interest. Very little will go SSG's way.

Hmm? Thirteen year old MMO or a brand new MMO? Which way will I go? Ask this question to a person with a small amount of disposable income and the answer is obvious. It doesn't matter if the person stays with the newer MMO. What matters is if SSG can endure the introduction of another competing MMO. It doesn't matter if the MMO is not LotR proper because Tolkien is Tolkien regardless of the setting. Everyone who indulges MMO's and Tolkien will choose at first the newer MMO. Well, because it's new.

If Amazon's new game flops, it may not matter to SSG's continued development of LOtRO. Can it and they survive? It's not looking good for SSG.

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Severlin is in a dream world.  The new game isn't going to draw people to Lotro.  If the game is half-way decent and looks great it's going to suck a large amount of players away from Lotro.  The only ones that will stick around are those terribly addicted to the game, and really old people that turn their noses up at "action rpgs."  

I have a friend who was nagging me to log in after almost a year.  Not a single person in my kinship on Landy had been active in the last two months.  I ended up clearing out about 9 pages of members.  Most of those people hadn't logged in in at least a year, some as high as 1200 days or more.   I had also forgotten how cringe inducing the banter is in world chat.  I guess that's what happens when the average age of your player base is 55 and they only know dad jokes and shitty puns.

If people decide to check it out they're going to see hours upon hours of bacon spam and harry potter references and immediately uninstall.

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1 hour ago, Amenhir said:

I had also forgotten how cringe inducing the banter is in world chat.

Oh dear lord, yes. I had to mute world chat just because of how inane the idiots were on there. That and all the people saying "goodnight Middle-earth" as if everyone was supposed to give a shit.

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I found I had no current means to contact another outside of LotRO. Uggh! I downloaded a current patch and logged into a Creep about two weeks ago. I said I wouldn't do it and loathed the idea of watching the launcher update. I waited for near an hour for the other mentioned to log on. During that time I joined a Creep raid and went through the motions resembling pvp but my heart wasn't in it. Soon as we exchanged contact info I logged out and uninstalled the game.

 

 

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On 1/15/2020 at 3:19 PM, Splay said:

Looks like Severlin answered the questions with a sense of truth. 10k log ons per day. He is including alt cycling in this count, so at optimum the number is more like 8k and possibly much less. Anyway, let's stick with his number of 10K. The last expansion's price was from $40 to 140$.

The rest of what he says is being underplayed. They sure are worried and though more Tolkien world exposure does indeed captivate generally more interest. Very little will go SSG's way.

Hmm? Thirteen year old MMO or a brand new MMO? Which way will I go? Ask this question to a person with a small amount of disposable income and the answer is obvious. It doesn't matter if the person stays with the newer MMO. What matters is if SSG can endure the introduction of another competing MMO. It doesn't matter if the MMO is not LotR proper because Tolkien is Tolkien regardless of the setting. Everyone who indulges MMO's and Tolkien will choose at first the newer MMO. Well, because it's new.

If Amazon's new game flops, it may not matter to SSG's continued development of LOtRO. Can it and they survive? It's not looking good for SSG.

Or it could be logins when you put your username and password in initially?

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10K logins per day...how many of those are non-paying, either as F2P/Premium or Lifers? I get the impression that there are a significant number of lifers, and I'd guess that 75-80% are not paying a monthly subscription. If only 20% or the regular players are paying, the game is only making $30K a month, or $360K a year. I doubt that covers the salaries for the employees.

Someone must  be buying a hell of a lot of points to sustain the game.

If you listen to LOTRO players (the successor to Casual Stroll to Mordor), at least one of the hosts valars pretty much every character she creates...so she's regularly throwing SSG money. I guess these are the people who are keeping the game afloat.

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At this point, i'm not surprised in the least that there's enough whales keeping LotRO on life support - mostly because they're stuck in a sunk cost fallacy and have to keep going.

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39 minutes ago, Almagnus1 said:

At this point, i'm not surprised in the least that there's enough whales keeping LotRO on life support - mostly because they're stuck in a sunk cost fallacy and have to keep going.

Hello I am new to these forums but not the game. I think there is some truth to this statement but there is also another type of whale that plays LOTRO, thats the adult with disposable income. I wont suppose to know the % of how many players are this type of player, but I can confirm personal knowledge of at least 8. As an example, there is a guy I play LOTRO with on Anor, we talk alot in discord. Frank is a 54 year old attorney, frank claims he made 350K in 2019. Video games are his hobby, he told me he spent 1,000.00 U.S. on LOTRO last year. 

I was floored, I pay VIP but It would never enter into my wildest spending thoughts to spend that much on LOTRO. I make a decent living (less than frank) but 1,000.00? Nah. Frank and I talked it out, as he explained it to me he spent .29% of his income on this game, yes thats less than a half percent of his income. Now I only know this guy from gaming he could be full of shit but I suspect there are more then the 8 or so people that I know that fall in this category. 

I would concede its the minority but I suspect the average player would have to be spending far more than the VIP a year. I mean they just did an expansion, have to pay for a studio etc. Now I understand DDO plays a roll her, its likely they combine the revenues of both games to sustain the one studio but how many "franks" are there out there? 

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32 minutes ago, karac avalron said:

Hello I am new to these forums but not the game. I think there is some truth to this statement but there is also another type of whale that plays LOTRO, thats the adult with disposable income. I wont suppose to know the % of how many players are this type of player, but I can confirm personal knowledge of at least 8. As an example, there is a guy I play LOTRO with on Anor, we talk alot in discord. Frank is a 54 year old attorney, frank claims he made 350K in 2019. Video games are his hobby, he told me he spent 1,000.00 U.S. on LOTRO last year. 

I was floored, I pay VIP but It would never enter into my wildest spending thoughts to spend that much on LOTRO. I make a decent living (less than frank) but 1,000.00? Nah. Frank and I talked it out, as he explained it to me he spent .29% of his income on this game, yes thats less than a half percent of his income. Now I only know this guy from gaming he could be full of shit but I suspect there are more then the 8 or so people that I know that fall in this category. 

I would concede its the minority but I suspect the average player would have to be spending far more than the VIP a year. I mean they just did an expansion, have to pay for a studio etc. Now I understand DDO plays a roll her, its likely they combine the revenues of both games to sustain the one studio but how many "franks" are there out there? 

I'm wonder how many of the people that pay are basically the slot machine addicts (the kind that are dirt poor but help keep the casinos afloat).  I've often wondered with some of the predatory monetization schemes employed by certain companies if that's not the actual point, especially since they often use psychology to help improve the effectiveness of the monetization.

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20 hours ago, Almagnus1 said:

I'm wonder how many of the people that pay are basically the slot machine addicts (the kind that are dirt poor but help keep the casinos afloat).  I've often wondered with some of the predatory monetization schemes employed by certain companies if that's not the actual point, especially since they often use psychology to help improve the effectiveness of the monetization.

Ya thats a great point, the whole loot box crap. Its prevalent in other games like Elder Scrolls Online etc. I mean LOTRO has a slot machine you can play every log in with hobbit presents. Its not coincidental it shares the appearance and visual aspects of a slot machine. It would be devious if it wasnt blatantly obvious as to what it was meant to represent. 

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On 1/21/2020 at 1:52 PM, karac avalron said:

Hello I am new to these forums but not the game. I think there is some truth to this statement but there is also another type of whale that plays LOTRO, thats the adult with disposable income. I wont suppose to know the % of how many players are this type of player, but I can confirm personal knowledge of at least 8. As an example, there is a guy I play LOTRO with on Anor, we talk alot in discord. Frank is a 54 year old attorney, frank claims he made 350K in 2019. Video games are his hobby, he told me he spent 1,000.00 U.S. on LOTRO last year. 

I was floored, I pay VIP but It would never enter into my wildest spending thoughts to spend that much on LOTRO. I make a decent living (less than frank) but 1,000.00? Nah. Frank and I talked it out, as he explained it to me he spent .29% of his income on this game, yes thats less than a half percent of his income. Now I only know this guy from gaming he could be full of shit but I suspect there are more then the 8 or so people that I know that fall in this category. 

I would concede its the minority but I suspect the average player would have to be spending far more than the VIP a year. I mean they just did an expansion, have to pay for a studio etc. Now I understand DDO plays a roll her, its likely they combine the revenues of both games to sustain the one studio but how many "franks" are there out there? 

That story is not of a whale. Their $1,000 a year doesn't make a difference. Nor will it keep the lights on. Whales in LotRO spend that much and more monthly. Even those can't make the difference. Do the math and think about it.

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5 hours ago, Splay said:

That story is not of a whale. Their $1,000 a year doesn't make a difference. Nor will it keep the lights on. Whales in LotRO spend that much and more monthly. Even those can't make the difference. Do the math and think about it.

Citation please?

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