Nachdem Turbine und Vivendi beschlossen nicht auf der E3 2004 anwesend zu sein, wurde der Veröffentlichtungstermin von 2004 auf 2005 verlegt um die Qualität und Quantität des Spiels weiter auszubauen. Mitte März wurde veröffentlicht, dass Vivendi Universal Games die alleinigen Rechte an den Entwickler Turbine verkauft hatte.
WESTWOOD, Mass. March 22, 2005 Turbine, Inc., a leading publisher of online subscription entertainment, announced today that it has finalized a deal with Tolkien Enterprises and Vivendi Universal Games (VU Games) that grants Turbine the exclusive right to develop and publish massively multiplayer online worlds based on The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit literary works. As part of the agreement, Turbine will own all of the game assets to the upcoming, highly anticipated massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) The Lord of the Rings": Middle-Earth" Online. All publishing responsibilities previously assumed by VU Games for the online license have been transitioned to Turbine effective immediately.
"As the exclusive publisher, Turbine looks forward to bringing J.R.R. Tolkien's vibrant worlds to online gamers around the globe," said Jeffrey Anderson, president and CEO, Turbine, Inc. "Turbine has been instrumental in the direction and production of Middle-Earth Online, its service and the community since day one. Together with Tolkien Enterprises, we intend to produce the best possible representation of these outstanding literary works and ensure a long and exciting future for Middle-Earth Online."
Acquiring the license to produce massively multiplayer online games based on Tolkien's world-renowned The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit books is the latest in a series of aggressive business moves by Turbine the once small contractor that transformed itself into the largest privately-held online game studio in North America. Turbine now directly owns or holds significant interest in each of the games and services that it produces. The company purchased the Asheron's Call® franchise from Microsoft in early 2004 and is building out the first and only MMORPG based on the iconic fantasy franchise Dungeons & Dragons®, which Turbine is self-funding.
"We are pleased to be working with Turbine," said Albert M. Bendich, Executive Vice President of The Saul Zaentz Company, which does business as Tolkien Enterprises. "We are confident that, under Turbine's development, Middle-Earth Online will faithfully bring-to-life the realms of Middle-earth for Tolkien fans everywhere to explore and enjoy."
With their new relationship, Turbine and Tolkien Enterprises are committed to doing what's best for Middle-Earth Online and the community (www.middle-earthonline.com/), which has already swelled to about 100,000 registered fans. As a result of this commitment, Turbine's production team is considering changes to make the game even better than before. Turbine will launch Middle-Earth Online in 2006. Specific details and dates regarding the game's development will be announced in the near future.
Turbine also is currently in negotiations with a few key strategic partners for a worldwide launch, including China, Japan, Korea, Europe and the U.S.
Zu diesem Zeitpunkt wurde auch der offizielle Spielname von Middle Earth Online zu The Lord of the Rings Online geändert. Die damalige 3D-Enginge – die auch heute noch zum Einsatz kommt – ist die hauseigene Turbine G3 die sich die Havok-Software zunutze macht, welche auch in Spielen wie Deus Ex: Invisible War genutzt wurde.