While I'm personally wary of announcements regarding The Lord of the Rings franchise, what with Warner Bros seemingly milking that cow dry, it appears that a new MMORPG is on the cards after all, made by freshly formed outfit Athlon Games.
Athlon Games partnered with Middle-earth Enterprises, exclusive owner of worldwide rights to Tolkien's IP on the deal, and the game will actually be set in the events prior to the famous trilogy. We're not sure whether this will means a piece of The Hobbit or just an extended intro to the trilogy but we should learn soon enough.
In the official press release, Leyou and Athlon Games promise that "the game will provide Middle-earth fans throughout the world with a new, immersive game experience for epic exploration of the Tolkien universe." Unfortunately, we're still not familiar with the actual name, since the rest of the press release is mostly about how this will create shareholder value for Leyou.
I must admit though, exploration of wonders that you could previously only see in your head has been among the main selling points for Tolkien's games. While I can't deny the sheer mouthwatering potential behind an MMORPG that lets you prance around Middle-earth how you see fit, I'll reserve my judgement until I see anything palpable.
With no name and no actual developer, it's difficult to say anything, although one thing I can vouch for. Making the sort of micro transactions that work in Warframe work in Tolkien's lore will take more than Saruman's magic. I'm not sure anything Tolkien-esque can or should be turned into a pay-to-win vs. grind-fest, which most Asian free to play titles are. Even though the press release's wording doesn't leave me confident, I hope the new LOTR doesn't end there.
Note that Athlon Games is a wholly owned subsidiary of Leyou, just like Digital Extremes, Canadian developer known for that little game Warframe. Leyou technically already boasts one successful free to play title, so they'll be looking to add another from J. R. R. Tolkien's lore.