The Saul Zaentz Company, which owns exclusive licensing rights to the most famous works of J.R.R. Tolkien, including The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, is preparing to sell those rights to the highest bidder at auction. This means that the rights to who can make Tolkien games will be controlled by a new company in the near future. A company with a lot of cash to throw around, that is — experts estimate that the Tolkien IP is worth at least $2 billion, probably a lot more.
For more than a decade, most major Tolkien games — in particular Middle-earth: Shadow of War, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, and various LEGO spin-offs — have been been published by Warner Bros., and have been based on Warner’s own phenomenally successful Tolkien movies, which were in turn made under license from The Saul Zaentz Company. Warner’s games were the subject of a five-year legal battle, eventually settled in 2017, after the Tolkien estate argued that Warner’s licensing deal only covered movies, and not games.
Warner has plans for at least two more Middle-earth games slated for release over the next few years and, while the impending sale is likely to complicate the production and release of those titles, it’s unlikely to obstruct them.