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The Gears of War will continue to turn at Microsoft.
Epic Games is no longer in the Gears of War business. Microsoft has purchased the rights to the sci-fi shooter franchise from the software company. That means that the Xbox corporation now has full control over the future of the series. Developer Black Tusk is now making the next Gears of War game, and Microsoft also revealed that former Gears of War director Rod Fergusson is now working with Microsoft and overseeing the project.
Gears of War is a long-running series of shooter games for the Xbox 360. It has players taking control of burly soldiers in a future war against a race of mutated humans.
“It all comes back to our commitment to Xbox fans,” Microsoft Game Studios boss Phil Spencer said. “The Gears of War franchise has a very strong, passionate, and valued fan base on Xbox. Over 22 million units have been sold across all Gears of War titles worldwide, grossing over $1 billion. This franchise, and these fans, are part of the soul of Xbox. By acquiring this franchise, Microsoft Studios will continue to offer them more of their favorite games and entertainment experiences from the Gears of War universe.”
Black Tusk is a new Vancouver-based studio. It debuted a teaser video at the Electronic Entertainment Expo trade show in June for an unnamed game, which you can see below:
In addition to the return of Fergusson to the Gears of War franchise, Black Tusk is the home of veteran producer Hanno Lemke, who worked on Gears of War 3.
“I am extremely confident that under the leadership of Hanno Lemke, Rod Fergusson, and our other leaders in the studio, Black Tusk is well equipped to take on the future development of the Gears of War franchise,” said Spencer.
Microsoft plans to reveal more about the next Gears of War game later this year.
As for Epic Games, the developer is moving on to other projects.
“Epic Games has reached an agreement to sell the ‘Gears of War’ intellectual property rights to Microsoft,” Epic chief executive Tim Sweeney said in a statement. “We’re very proud of the franchise we built in close partnership with Microsoft over the past decade and are happy that this agreement enables Microsoft to forge ahead with the Gears universe on their industry-leading platforms as Epic concentrates its efforts on new projects. Epic remains totally dedicated to supporting Xbox One and is licensing the Unreal Engine 4 technology to Microsoft in support of their future projects.”
Epic Games debuted the Gears of War franchise for Xbox 360 in 2006. The series has since had four total installments, with the first appearing on both Microsoft’s console and PC. The rest are Xbox 360 exclusives. Epic developed the first three titles in the franchise before overseeing Bulletstorm developer People Can Fly as it produced Gears of War: Judgment.
The Gears of War releases have all enjoyed positive commercial and critical receptions — although the most-recent game, Judgment, was called out for retreading much of the same material. It also failed to live up to the sales performance of the previous games.
In addition to game development, Epic is also well regarded for its suite of graphics tools known as the Unreal Engine. The company licenses that software to third-party developers who then use it to make their own games. Unreal Engine 3 powered a number of notable titles during the last generation of consoles including Gears of War, Mass Effect 3, and BioShock Infinite.
The company is now focusing on offering its upgraded Unreal Engine 4 tools to developers on the current PlayStation 4 and Xbox One hardware.