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'Hobbit' video game barrage keeps growing

September 25, 2012|By Ben Fritz
  • Martin Freeman stars in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."
Martin Freeman stars in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey." (James Fisher )

With two related titles already planned for consoles, Warner Bros. on Tuesday announced a partnership to create video games for the Web and mobile devices based on its upcoming trilogy of  "The Hobbit," with the first film set to hit theaters in December.

San Francisco-based Kabam, which focuses on free multi-player games for digital devices beyond consoles, will create two "Hobbit" tie-in video games set to launch later this fall, the studio said.

"The Hobbit: Armies of the Third Age" is a military strategy game for Web browsers that lets players control armies of fantasy characters such as dwarfs, orcs and elves. In "The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-Earth," for smartphones and tablets, players build and manage kingdoms in author J.R.R. Tolkien's fictional world.

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Both will be free-to-play, meaning players need only pay when they choose to buy upgrades to assist in game play or change the appearance of their digital characters and locations.

Kabam is developing and will operate the games, and will release and market them together with the studio's video game unit, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.

That unit is already making two tie-in games of its own this fall, though neither are based directly on "The Hobbit" movie. One, "Lego Lord of the Rings," continues the studio's franchise of kid-targeted games with digital characters built out of Legos, such as "Lego Batman" and "Lego Harry Potter."

The other, "Guardians of Middle-Earth," is a downloadable combat game for consoles featuring characters from "The Hobbit" and "Lord of the Rings" that is similar to the popular "League of Legends."

With four different titles coming out this fall, Warner is betting that the marketing and publicity onslaught that has already started for "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," which is to debut Dec. 14, could be a boon to its video game business as well.

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