Electronic Arts held the Lord of the Rings license throughout the triumphant years of the Peter Jackson films. But apparently it has surrendered the rights back to Tolkien Enterprises, which in turn has given the license to Warner Bros., which has a game division.

The companies haven’t confirmed this account, which Variety reported. If true, then it would explain some things. EA recently released The Lord of the Rings: Conquest game to generally lousy reviews. Its Metacritic score (an aggregate of review scores) was an abysmal 57.

EA’s Pandemic Studios, which made the game, apparently had to ship it by the end of 2008. That may have resulted in a rush job. The game actually shipped in January, so Pandemic had a reprieve of a couple of weeks. I played the game all the way through, mostly because I’m a Lord of the Rings fan. But clearly most gamers were annoyed with the game play flaws (which I pointed out in my review).

It will be interesting to see if Warner Bros. does something with the license. Meanwhile, Turbine still has the rights to make online games based on Lord of the Rings books (although it hasn’t had rights to use the imagery from the Peter Jackson movies). Since Warner Bros. holds a stake in Turbine, the company may be moving toward consolidating the rights. There’s still talk of a Hobbit movie coming. That may help the game franchise in the future.