The LEGO: The Hobbit and LEGO: Lord of the Rings games have been pulled from digital distribution. This comes after LEGO: The Hobbit was offered for free throughout December on the Humble Store. No official reason for the removal has been offered, but in cases like these, it is likely a licensing issue.
As with most of the other licensed LEGO games developed by Traveller’s Tales, LEGO: Lord of the Rings and LEGO: The Hobbit involved playing through LEGO recreations of the live action films. Since the success of the LEGO: Star Wars games, Traveller’s Tales have adapted this formula to many other licensed brands, such as Marvel Comics and Pixar’s The Incredibles.
The obvious downside to making games based on licensed intellectual property is that the deals made to use the license can run out. This has happened more than once to Activision’s Deadpool game, which went off shelves 6 months after it came out due to licensing issues with Marvel. This has also been seen in the disappearance of many of Telltale Games’ licensed games, following the company’s closure.
In the specific cases of the LEGO Hobbit and LotR adaptations, which use actual vocal performances from the films, the rights issues are likely even more complicated than that. It isn’t impossible that the games could become available for purchase again (like with the Deadpool game), but it is far from a sure thing. Hopefully any licensing disputes can be resolved soon so that the games can be sold again.
Overall, this is kind of a pity; whilst the LEGO games are somewhat formulaic, they’re also a lot of fun, and the LEGO games based on the Middle-Earth films are no exception. So far, none of the other LEGO adaptations have gone off shelves in this way. It is still a shame to think that they could just disappear like that. If you have already bought a digital copy of either game, you will still be able to download it.