Lord of the Rings Online will be getting its own social networking site that will feature live news feeds from the game world, character profile pages, friends lists and more.
The upcoming site is "a version of Facebook or MySpace that sites directly on to of the gaming world," said Jim Crowley, president and CEO of LOTRO developer Turbine. "This is a fully-featured, rich, robust social network. It has every single feature that you would find in the major commercial social networks such as Facebook and MySpace."
Speaking at the Tokyo Game Show, Crowley said the innovation was driven by the "ideal position" of MMOGs to take advantage of social networking, and that such integration will eventually become commonplace as new gamers, accustomed to the ubiquity of online social networks, begin to come onstream. "Turbine believes that a closed ecosystem will have to become an open ecosystem," he said. "The MMO needs to learn... to adapt itself to the 'born digital' generation. The MMO needs to step out of its shell and start reaching a much broader and deeper audience."
He added that the integration of social networks could be beneficial to developers and publishers by allowing the use of in-game advertising in titles where it would otherwise be inappropriate, like Lord of the Rings Online, while also "extending the lifetime value of the customer" by involving them more closely in the game.
The Lord of the Rings Online social networking site is slated to live later this year, while Turbine's other games, Dungeons & Dragons Online and Asheron's Call, will get their own similar sites in late 2008 or 2009.