I don’t know about y’all, but a million-dollar idea for a The Lord of the Rings game pitch that inevitably failed hard maybe isn’t worth a million dollars. Then again, the story is never as simple as that and certainly isn’t for Jon Burton, founder of Traveller’s Tales and the man that brought the LEGO game franchises to the forefront of casual gaming. He revealed this week from his YouTube channel GameHut that there was a failed The Hobbit Lord of the Rings game pitch that cost the studio over $1,000,000 dollars—yet never saw the light of day. Yikes.
The video includes a number of playable levels that were created for the pitch, a look at The Lord of the Rings concept for The Hobbit game that never was.
There was a good long while where Traveller’s Tales was not only synonymous with LEGO, but also The Lord of the Rings as a gaming franchise as well. For the longest time, the book franchise suffered immensely from a slog of bad games all stemming from everyone and their mother attempting to get a piece of the movie tie-in pie. One of the few game series that continually bucked this trend of mediocrity was the LEGO The Lord of the Rings game, which followed a number of other successful licensed LEGO games in the years that preceded it.
The above failed game pitch was well before the developer ever touched The Lord of the Rings franchise in LEGO form though. It was aournd 2008 that they saw it as time to attempt something new and wanted to work alongside the at-the-time project head and director of The Hobbit live adaptation, Guillermo del Toro, to make a Hobbit video game.
Because The Hobbit film had not yet been made, the team decided to use The Lord of the Rings own set pieces and scenes as the test case for what they wanted to accomplish with The Hobbit, as the goal was to capture the essence of the original movie trilogy but for this new project based around The Hobbit and pitch it to the rights holders in February 2009. The footage and screenshots seen were not indicative of The Hobbit game the company wanted to make, but rather a proof of concept using Lord of the Rings as the base.
Things didn’t go so well. Burton talks about how the project quickly got out of hand, with four full levels and five additional tech demos being constructed, including levels of full-on stealth gameplay that feature Frodo sneaking through a rainy forest and avoiding the Orc hoard. One of the most intriguing scenes is a spell-slinging battle between Gandalf and Saruman in which the player goes in and out of first and third-person, countering spells and fighting in a cinematic battle. There’s also a fight between Gandalf and the Balrog (no, not Barlog), Sam and Frodo avoiding the ringwraiths, and Aragorn in combat.
The entire video is a fascinating watch given none of this was ever actually intended to be the game itself. This all was just a proof of concept pitch to get approved to make a Hobbit companion game. It seems the troubles stemmed from some of the difficulties the film studio had in producing the movie trilogy as it was delayed and del Toro left the project. Burton eventually got to make both Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit games in LEGO form.
I guess sometimes the price tag just isn’t worth the cost to play along. Oh well. There’s always that Gollum game coming out on PlayStation 5 for the rest of us waiting for a good, non-LEGO Lord of the Rings game.