Microsoft announced Monday that it has purchased the rights to the Gears of War franchise, following original developer Epic’s decision to move on to new projects. Microsoft has now tasked Vancouver-based Black Tusk Studios with developing future games in the series, although they’ll have the assistance of Rod Fergusson, former Epic director in charge of the series, who joined Microsoft as part of the acquisition.
Gears of War, a sci-fi third-person shooter, has always been a Microsoft platform exclusive series, with all four games appearing exclusively on the Xbox 360 (accompanied by a Windows edition of the first game). Epic’s decision to abandon the franchise potentially deprived the new Xbox One of another highly important exclusive title.
Although no official announcements have been made about which platforms future Gears of War games will appear on, Microsoft’s Phil Spencer, quoted in the company’s blog post, strongly hinted at the Xbox:
It all comes back to our commitment to Xbox fans. The “Gears of War” franchise has a very strong, passionate and valued fan base on Xbox. Over twenty-two million units have been sold across all “Gears of War” titles worldwide, grossing over $1B dollars (US). 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.
The terms of the deal between Microsoft and Epic are unknown, but Microsoft will now face the challenge of revitalizing the franchise. After strong launches for the first three games in 2006, 2009, and 2011, the fourth entry in the series, 2013’s Gears of War: Judgment, saw weaker sales and more tepid ratings. However, fans of the series will have to wait until “later this year” to learn more details on Microsoft’s plans.