Vivendi Universal Games today confirmed it was ceasing development of The Lord of the Rings: The Treason of Isengard for the Xbox and PlayStation 2. The title was in development at Surreal Software, the studio currently at work on the action horror game The Suffering.
The VU statement reads in part as follows:
“Scheduled for release in Q4 2003, Treason of Isengard was dropped from the release schedule when it was determined that the game was not shaping up as strongly as anticipated and would likely not satisfy the expectations of Tolkien fans.
“Vivendi Universal Games remains committed to developing and releasing quality games based on the literary works of J.R.R. Tolkien, and we look forward to the release of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring this November, as well as Middle-earth Online next year.”
VU Games’ Andrew Shiozaki, senior brand manager, clarified the publisher’s position in a brief conversation with GameSpot today.
GameSpot: Can you elaborate on why you and the VU Games staff thought the game would not satisfy the expectations of Tolkien fans?
Andrew Shiozaki: As part of VU Games’ long-term commitment to the Tolkien franchise and its dedication to shipping only top-tier games that will deliver on the expectations of Tolkien fans worldwide, we recently reviewed the status of the entire lineup of Tolkien games.
Unfortunately, it was determined that The Lord of the Rings: The Treason of Isengard was not going to achieve the strict, but crucial, standards for our Tolkien games. With that, the decision has been made to cancel this title and focus on the remainder of the Tolkien lineup.
GS: What were the budgets of the two titles?
AS: They never tell me these things because I end up asking for more marketing dollars.
GS: Do you intend to start development at some point in the future using The Lord of the Rings license?
AS: We’ve actually been in development with several titles that we are very excited about. We’re preparing for the much-anticipated release of The Hobbit for consoles and the PC this holiday season. Specifically for the PC, we have the epic real-time strategy game The Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring also coming out this Holiday. Looking further down the road, we have The Lord of the Rings: Middle-Earth Online. Regarding our Tolkien franchise as a whole, these titles represent only the tip of the iceberg.
GS: How much of Treason of Isengard’s development was completed?
AS: We were due to ship Treason of Isengard this November, but the game wasn’t going to deliver the experience that our fans demand, so we knew the right choice was to cancel the project and move on.
GS: What do you figure your costs were to this point?
AS: We don’t discuss financial matters such as this.
GS: Who ultimately made the decision to cease production on the games?
AS: The decision was made by the entire Tolkien team internally at VU Games. The team is comprised of members of the development, marketing, and executive staff.
GS: What is the company’s history with Surreal?
AS: Surreal did the PlayStation 2 and PC ports of our previous Tolkien game, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
GS: How would you describe the working relationship with Surreal to this point?
AS: It was an excellent working relationship. The team at Surreal is very talented, and we wish them luck on their future endeavors.
GS: Does the cancellation of these products mean VU Games’ staff will be laid off?
AS: Absolutely not. There is still much to do in relation to the franchise.
GS: Thank you, Andrew.
By Curt Feldman, GameSpot