In a deal with the license-holders, Turbine (they of Asheron's Call fame) have announced that they have taken over development and publishing rights of upcoming LotR massive-multiplayer online role-playing games, with titles based on The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings now also likely to bear fruit.

Turbine is currently working on Middle-Earth Online, and the previous deal stipulated that publishing rights would be held by Vivendi Universal. With the exclusivity deal now struck, though, Turbine will now do it all.

Bigging-up his Company, Turbine president and CEO Jeffrey Anderson said "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."

Those on the other side of the fence were happy, too, with Tolkien Enterprises exec Albert M. Bendich commenting, "We are pleased to be working with Turbine. 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." Of course, Turbine was developing the title anyway, so this was just the usual spiel. No comments were forthcoming from Vivendi, though.

Currently only Middle-Earth Online has seen any official work carried out, and whilst it isn't slated for release until next year, interest is already huge, with Turbine claiming around 100,000 fans having registered. For details of the title, and to make that 100,001 registered members, head-off to the official Middle-Earth Online website for a look-see.

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