Amazon and Jeff Bezos Negotiating a Lord of the Rings TV Series


Amazon Studios, the film and TV division of the e-commerce goliath, is negotiating a Lord of the Rings series from Warner Bros. Television and Tolkien’s estate. Jeff Bezos, a known lover of high fantasy and science fiction, is said to be personally involved. Bezos rarely steps into discussions on behalf of the studios division, but this is likely due to the nature of high-profile departures from the company in recent months.

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Torchlight Developer Runic Games is No More


All is not a perfect world, it seems. That’s because Perfect World, the China-based publisher of MMOs, has decided to shut down Runic Games, developers of Torchlight and its sequel, as well as the recently-released Hob.

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Team 17 Games Releasing Physically on Switch

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Good news, Switch owners! If you’re like me and love physically copies, some small publishers are jumping on board. Team 17, the house that Worms built, is partnering up with Sold Out to release physical copies of Worms WMD and Overcooked. Both will be out in 2018.

In addition, upcoming Team 17 game Yoku’s Island Express, an interesting mix of platformer and pinball, will also release physically for Switch.

As for me, I plan to snatch up all three of these games when they release. I love physical copies and these games are all quirky and perfect for me. I’m not a big pinball guy, but Yoku looks amazing.

CCP Games to Consolidate, Close Studios


How far the mighty has fallen. Just last year, Eve Online maker CCP Games was in discussions to be acquired for nearly $1 billion. Today, the company is downsizing one studio, closing another, and selling a third. At the end of the day, the company will be left with two active studios and a support office.

All told, 100 employees are affected due to a reduced investment in virtual reality. Eve: Valkyrie, a Rift launch title, featured heavily in that headset’s advertising. Then, the game was completely overhauled and later dropped the need for a VR headset to play the game. The company also made a sports game called Sparc for PlayStation VR.

CCP plans to keep three studios: Reykjavík (the company’s headquarters in Iceland), London, and a Shanghai support studio. The company plans to close its studio in Atlanta and sell its Newcastle, UK studio.

“CCP has provided severance packages and job placement assistance for all those affected,” the company said. “There are no changes to ongoing plans for Eve Online and the company’s product pipeline is strong.”

This product pipeline includes first-person shooter Project Nova and mobile-based Project Aurora. Eve: Valkyrie and Sparc development will go on under the company’s London studio.

“We have been front and center in the second wave of VR,” Pétursson said. “Our belief in the long-term transformative power of the technology remains strong.”

Plarium Acquires Rumble Entertainment


“In many ways this acquisition was a natural extension for us, because our focus has been on creating web and mobile games with strategy and RPG gameplay elements for a hardcore gaming audience, which is comparable to Rumble’s target audience,” said Plarium’s chief marketing officer and cofounder Gabi Shalel in an email. “Rumble Games titles have similar themes but are more focused on action/RPG components. Ultimately, Rumble can help us expand into the RPG market.”

Plarium, the PC-turned-mobile developer of strategy MMOS, has acquired Rumble Entertainment, makers of RPGs such as KingsRoad. Some of Plarium’s most popular games include Vikings: War of Clans and Soldiers, Inc. Vikings, a two year old game, is still earning the company $3 million a month, due to the social multiplayer component.

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Gimlet Media Raises $15 Million, Showing There is Money in Podcasts


Laurene Powell Job’s Emerson Collective is back in the news. Two days after acquiring a majority stake in The Atlantic, the non-profit has participated in a funding round for Gimlet Media, a podcasting company. The $15 million round was led by the investment firm Stripes Group. Some of Gimlet’s shows include “StartUp,” about the funding of Gimlet, “Homecoming,” the company’s first fiction podcast, and my personal favorite “The Pitch,” a Shark Tank-esque investing podcast.

Emerson Collective and Graham Holdings, owners of rival podcast network Panoply, also joined in the round. “This investment is a gratifying validation that we are at the beginning of the second golden age of audio,” said Alex Blumberg and Matt Lieber, Gimlet Media’s co-founders.

There isn’t much money in podcasting, but Gimlet makes up roughly $15 million of an estimated $118 million industry. A PwC study, funded by Gimlet and other podcasting companies, estimates this number will jump 85% to $220 million this year.

Gimlet is looking at other ways to expand revenues as well. Gimlet’s very first podcast, “StartUp” is being turned into a single-camera sitcom on ABC called “Alex, Inc.” starring Zach Braff. “Homecoming,” about a secret government agency whose staff desperately wants to rejoin civilian life, has been given a two season order by Amazon Studios.