Lord of the Rings Online's executive producer Jeffrey Steefel has told Eurogamer that he thinks the Turbine game is the most likely MMO to achieve mass-market success, after World of Warcraft.
"There's another level of success, which is reaching a certain mass-market critical mass, which to be totally fair, only Blizzard has achieved completely so far," Steefel said in an interview published today.
"We think that we are the game that has the most likelihood of being the second to do that, but we're not there yet."
Turbine does not publicly release subscriber figures for Lord of the Rings Online, but maintains that the game is profitable, and growing.
Steefel's optimism about LOTRO's future stems from the Asian launches, the return of Tolkien to the cinemas with Guillermo del Toro's forthcoming Hobbit movie, and Turbine's determination to bring the game to new markets.
He expects the game will need to move beyond a standard subscription model in the long run. "This is a franchise that's going to continue for years and years and years, and there's no way that the singular, monolithic, USD 14.95 a month subscription model is going to last for years and years and years all by itself... it has to change."
Steefel also gave the clearest indication yet that Turbine's in-development console game is a version, or extension, of Lord of the Rings Online.
"Consoles only have a certain number of buttons, so how do you help someone use a console controller to manage inventory and skills and traits and deeds and crafting items and all that stuff in a way that's not just painful," he said, naming several gameplay elements specific to Lord of the Rings Online.
He discussed the potential of two players co-operating on one machine in a persistent world - "You can imagine how cool that would be. Very challenging to do, but again, possible," - and of using multiple devices, such as consoles, PCs and mobile phones, as access points to a single virtual world.
But, he said, "we're talking right now about taking games and putting them on console, or building games specifically for console."
Check out the full Lord of the Rings Online: Mines of Moria interview with Jeffrey Steefel for more.