Why On Middle-Earth Is Turbine Releasing The First Lord of the Rings Online Expansion Five Days After WoW: WoTLK?

Nathan Grayson

“Beginning November 18th players across North America and Europe will journey with the dwarves deep into Middle-earth to reclaim the ancient kingdom of Khazad-dûm from the minions of Saruman,” said Jeffrey Steefel , executive producer of The Lord of the Rings Online.

And no, this isn't a loquacious announcement that LOTRO has slipped to November 18th, 2009 -- but that'd make far more sense than what Turbine is actually doing.

For the uninitiated (aka, those who don't read article titles), WoW: Wrath of the Lich King -- possibly the most-anticipated MMO expansion ever and one of the few 2008 PC releases that can challenge Spore to a bout of sales-fisticuffs and match the game blow-for-blow -- is crashing down the gates (and probably its own servers) on November 13th . Add to that the fact that LOTRO is basically WoW plus little big-footed people and minus about 9 million players, and you have a painstakingly composed financial suicide note ready to go.

However, I'm doubtful that Turbine simply glazed over while staring at the "Doomsday" label stamped across its calendar in place of its rival's big day, so the November 18th release date can't be an absent-minded slip-up. So why did Turbine decide to chuck its baby in front of WoW's double-decker 18-wheeler-Batmobile hybrid? I don't know, but here's my guess:

Blizzard obviously hopes WoTLK will send players flocking back to WoW -- just as Burning Crusade before it -- and Turbine knows this is a strong possibility. But if LOTRO receives a nice infusion of new content around the same time as WoW, the Tolkein-inspired MMO's fanbase may not be so apt to drop their flutes and return to Blizzard's breadwinner.

What do you think?

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