The videogame rights to several Tolkien works, including The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are going up for auction.
According to entertainment trade magazine Variety, the Saul Zaentz Company will be selling all of the Tolkien holdings it has owned since 1976, which means rights pertaining to Tolkien properties will be up for grabs. That includes the rights to movies, merchandising, live events like theme park attractions and of course, videogames.
That being said, the rights being put up for auction are not exclusive. Warner Bros Entertainment currently holds certain rights including videogame ones through its ownership of New Line Cinema, the company that produced Peter Jackson’s iconic Lord of the Rings film trilogy and Hobbit trilogy. Through WB Games, Warner has made several games based on its films, including the Middle-Earth: Shadow series.
The auction could not come at a more opportune time. Amazon is set to launch Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, its long in development, megabudget TV series based on events that predate the film trilogies. As such, Amazon is seen as a top candidate to pursue the entirety of these rights and in the darkness bind them.
Also included in the auction are limited matching rights to films and other productions based on work that was published after Tolkien’s death, such as The Silmarillon and The Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-Earth.
The Saul Zaentz Company is named for the film and music mogul who died in 2014 and acquired the rights to the various Tolkien titles. While Warner maintains the movie rights, the Saul Zaentz Company believes the rights returned to them in 2021 due to inactivity in content development. Disputes like this have led to extensive legal action over the ownership of the Tolkien film rights.
One original aspect of the rights that the Company acquired was the right to produce a TV series longer than eight episodes, but because of the specificity of those terms it created a loophole. Amazon cut a deal directly with the Tolkien estate for their upcoming TV series without having to involve the Saul Zaentz Company.
The Tolkien holdings are expected to fetch $2 billion and it’s expected that Amazon and Warner will wage a fierce bidding battle for them.