Lord of the Rings Online game
Lord of the Rings Online game - 
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SCOTT JAGOW: If you don't play them, I'm sure you've heard about these massive online role-playing games like World of Warcraft. There's a new one out with a familiar theme. Curt Nickisch has more.

CURT NICKISCH: The new game is based on Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings."

Gamers log on to Middle Earth separately but play together online.

[ GAME:"I can only hope that Frodo and Sam have left the Shire. Without my aid, their road may be a perilous one." ]

The road could be a perilous one for Massachusetts software developer Turbine, which took four years to create the game.

That's because its industry nemesis Blizzard Entertainment is slaughtering the market — making more than a billion dollars a year from its popular World of Warcraft game.

But Turbine CEO Jeff Anderson says his game debuts with a familiar ring.

JEFF ANDERSON: In these games, because you can't play Gandalf or Frodo, you need to have the world itself be a very strong character. And I can't imagine a franchise doing a better job than Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings."

Turbine's quest may depend on how many online gamers will ditch one fantasy world for this new one.

In Boston, I'm Curt Nickisch for Marketplace.

Screenshots from the Lord of the Rings online game