Amazon’s internal gaming division continues to experience trouble as it recently canceled its MMO project based on The Lord of the Rings. The game was announced two years ago in 2019 and was in development at Amazon Game Studios in collaboration with Leyou Technologies Holdings Ltd, a video game holding company based in Hong Kong.
Leyou Technologies was recently bought up by the multinational tech conglomerate, Tencent, back in December 2020. The contract negotiations that happened afterward led to a dispute between Amazon and Tencent, leading to the game’s cancellation.
A spokesperson for Amazon confirmed Tencent’s acquisition and said that the team who worked on the game will move on to other projects. The spokesperson says, “We love the Lord of the Rings IP and are disappointed that we won’t be bringing this game to customers.”
Disappointing that Amazon canceled the Lord of the Rings MMO but after finding out it was because of Tencent negotiations, I'm glad.
I'd rather not have the game at all if having it means accepting China's censorship and monetization practices
— Zack (@Asmongold) April 17, 2021
The game was set to take place during the Second Age of Middle-Earth, a point in time before the events of the novels, and to be released on the PC and consoles. Amazon also had a Lord of the Rings series planned to come out later this year, set during the same point in time, to accompany the game.
This new cancellation is the latest among a consistent string of troubles for Amazon Game Studios. The studio hasn’t been able to launch a successful video game since 2014 and has canceled multiple games such as the free-to-play shooter, Crucible. The situation around Crucible was particularly strange because the game had already been released but was taken out of release and back into closed beta.
Amazon Games Studios has another MMO in the works titled New World but this has had its fair share of troubles as well. The game’s release has been delayed four times. Currently, New World is scheduled for release on August 31 with a closed beta beginning on July 20.
Amazon Game Studios has had issues since its inception and stories of mismanagement have plagued the company for years. Studio co-founder and Vice President, Mike Frazzini, never made a video game in his life. In fact, he was a manager in Amazon’s book section before moving to the gaming division.
Frazzini did make some positive decisions like when the studio hired Portal creator, Kim Swift (who has since left to work for EA), and Clint Hocking who was the creative director for Far Cry 2.
Under Frazzini, Amazon's Seattle office also cultivated a "bro culture" that made women feel ostracized and unwelcome, according to four female developers who worked there (and backed up by many men). Women said the sexist culture at AGS was worse than any other game studio pic.twitter.com/36mPD90jWC
— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) January 29, 2021
Despite having big names on the payroll, Frazzini ignored their advice, according to comments made by current and former employees at Amazon Game Studios. Frazzini also insisted that Amazon build its own development tools, which didn’t really work, to use in lieu of the industry-standard tools.
This information comes from a Bloomberg article that features interviews with people familiar with the goings-on at Amazon Game Studios. In that article, an excerpt reads, “Successful video games are a combination of art, entertainment, technology, and very large budgets. Big tech companies only really figured out the last two.”
Judging by this recent Amazon story, it appears that the company also has to learn about the art of negotiation if it plans to continue making games.