Traveller’s Tales spent $1 million pitching a game based on Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit film.
According to Traveller’s Tales founder Jon Burton, the studio best known for creating LEGO games pitched a game based on The Hobbit and spent $1 million on it.
Burton said in his GameHut video, which shows footage of the failed pitch for Xbox 360, the demo was designed to convince Peter Jackson the studio was well equipped to produce a game outside of the LEGO series. The pitch was also to be sent to Guillermo del Toro who was at one time attached to direct the film.
The studio was given six months to create a demo for the game to pitch at the end of 2009. To demonstrate how the studio felt a movie tie-in game should be created, the team used The Lord of the Rings as a template. In the end, Traveller’s Tales made four different polished levels and five additional tech demos.
Two of the levels featured stealth gameplay starring Frodo, another was of Gandalf fighting Saruman in Isengard, and another level was of Gandalf fighting the Balrog in Khazad-dum (Moria).
In addition to the levels, there was a demo of Aragorn fighting Uruk-hai at Amon Hen, Frodo and Sam at Weathertop (Amon Sul) trying to avoid the Nazgul, a tech demo showing how many enemies that could be used in battle, Frodo and Sam wandering around the Shire, and quick sequence in Rivendell to show how the team could use motion capture to recreate moments from the film.
“So we basically went way too far and spent way too much money making this demo,” said Burton. “But I really wanted to show what we could do beyond just the Lego games,” Burton said.
In February of 2009, Burton says he packed up his Xbox 360 and flew to New Zealand to pitch the demo to Jackson and del Toro.
“The demo went fine, it didn’t crash or anything, and Guillermo [del Toro] in particular was super-positive and very excited by it,” said Burton. “The feedback we received was that they were happy for us to make a live-action Hobbit game.”
However, in the end, Warner Bros. which holds the rights to the film and game franchise wanted a game that wasn’t based directly on the movies but one set in the same world.
“I have no idea if internal politics played a role in the decision or not, but in the end, the game was never greenlit,” said Burton.
If you are interested in having a look at clips of the pitch, you should give Burton’s video a watch.