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Lord of the Rings Online gets a Mac client


Lord of the Rings Online is a massively multiplayer game run by Turbine Entertainment based on JRR Tolkien's popular fantasy fiction series. The game first went live back in 2007, but a few years ago transitioned over to a free-to-play model, aiming to bring in a large audience of free players supported by a smaller group of people paying for microtransaction items. Now, after "planning and discussing and working on this for quite some time," Turbine's VP of Product Development Craig Alexander told TUAW in an exclusive interview that Turbine is releasing a Mac client for Lord of the Rings Online this week, bringing the free-to-play game to Apple's platform and the Mac audience. The client is now live, and can be downloaded directly from this link.

The Mac platform has been making leaps and bounds forward in options for gamers lately. Steam famously brought its platform over to Apple's personal computers recently, as have several other developers. Turbine first considered bringing Lord of the Rings Online to Mac back when the game went free-to-play, said Alexander, but the reason it took so long was because the company decided to build a native port for the game rather than depend on emulation or other similar methods. "Trying to outsource the task just didn't make sense," said Alexander.

Kate Paiz is the executive producer of the game, and she said that because the Mac client is native, it'll be the exact same game on the Mac as it is on the PC. "It'll all just work natively," she told TUAW. "The Mac stuff will work through the same patcher." The Mac game itself won't have any extra features or experiences exclusive to the Mac, but Paiz said the team always tries to figure out how to best welcome new players, and was thinking about the Mac client even while developing the game's latest expansion, Riders of Rohan, released a few weeks ago.

The current launch of the game will be as a beta client, downloadable directly from Turbine that will simply sign into the game's live servers. A closed beta has been active for a few months, so this is essentially an open beta period starting now. Turbine expects to maintain and update that client over time, fixing any problems that users have.
Alexander said that as the client moves out of beta, the company will consider making it available on Steam or other downloadable platforms. The Mac App Store probably isn't a possibility just yet, because Turbine depends on the game's microtransactions for profit, and running those through Apple's marketplace would just cost too much at this point.

But Turbine is expecting both to see current players excited to run the game natively on their favorite computers, and new players interested in a free-to-play experience on OS X. "There haven't been a lot of MMOs or free-to-play games on the Mac yet, which we think is an opportunity, " said Alexander. "We're hopeful we're going to get lots of new players." And Paiz said that Turbine is happy to have Mac users on board. "We're very excited to welcome the Mac community firsthand ... We'd like to see what this IP and this game means to them personally."

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