Microsoft Studios has acquired the rights to the Gears of War franchise from Epic Games, including rights to all existing and future games, “entertainment experiences”, and merchandise.
Vancouver-based Black Tusk Studios will take over development on the franchise, much in the same way that 343 Industries took over Halo when it was acquired from Bungie.
In addition, Microsoft has announced that Rod Fergusson, former director of production at Epic Games on the first three Gears of War titles, will join the company in a leadership role at Black Tusk to work on the series.
Fergusson most recently worked as a “closer” on BioShock Infinite for 2K Games, and announced in September that he would be leading a new studio on an unannounced project at that company. He worked for Microsoft from 1996 to 2006.
“I missed it," Fergusson told Polygon.
"As a player, I’ve never had a better gaming experience than when I was playing Gears with my friends – especially Gears 2 Horde Mode.
“And as a creator, I was part of the birthing process of this franchise and it made me sad that it wasn’t going to move beyond what we had accomplished,” he added.
“Dammit, I want to play the next Gears game right now! What’s the old line? 'If you want something done right, do it yourself.' So when the opportunity came, I grabbed it."
Head of Microsoft Studios Phil Spencer said the as-yet-unproven Black Tusk studio was chosen to lead development due to its world-class team and passion for shooters.
“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,” he said.
The Black Tusk-produced demo shown at last year’s E3 was simply a concept piece, Spencer told Polygon.
"The studio has really been incubating different ideas over the past six to nine months on what they might work on, but the discussion with Epic obviously didn't start yesterday,” he said.
“We've been in this discussion for a while. The leadership team there has known for a while."
Epic confirmed that future Gears games will still use the Unreal Engine.
“Epic remains totally dedicated to supporting Xbox One and is licensing the Unreal Engine 4 technology to Microsoft in support of their future projects,” said Epic Games founder and CEO Tim Sweeney.
Meanwhile, Gears of War creator Cliff Bleszinski wrote on his personal blog that he would not be involved with Gears for the foreseeable future.
“I’m not going to move to Vancouver and work on it. I’m not going to consult on it,” he wrote.
“My headspace is in the future now, not the past. I have come to realize that until you give people something new to focus on they will obsess about the past.
“Gears is just as much Rod’s baby as it was mine. He’ll take good care of her,” he added.
“343 knocked it out of the park with Halo and I think Black Tusk will do a fantastic job with Gears.”
More news about the future of Gears of War is expected later this year.