Do we need more Gears of War games? Microsoft thinks so. Enough so, in fact, that it’s gone and placed further locks, chains and other securing mechanisms around a franchise it already had pretty much squared away as the popular third-person shooter’s exclusive publisher.
Make that the owner now, too: Microsoft announced just a few minutes ago that it’s picked up the rights to the Gears franchise from developer Epic Games, which means Redmond now holds everything, soup to nuts.
Big deal? Kind of, because instead of subcontracting Epic to continue developing new games in the series, Microsoft’s handing the gig to its own Black Tusk Studios in Vancouver, British Columbia. That would be the studio formerly known as Microsoft Vancouver, formed in 2010 and responsible for work on Microsoft Flight (development cancelled in mid-2012) and a Kinect-based interactive TV project for kids (also cancelled mid-2012).
I know, that makes me nervous too — “unproven” is the polite, PR-friendly way of describing this. But Microsoft’s drawing a dotted line back to Epic by hiring former Gears production director Rod Fergusson to head up Black Tusk’s work on future games in the franchise. Fergusson left Epic and signed on with Irrational Games back in August 2012 as BioShock Infinite was wrapping up, but left Irrational shortly after that game arrived, delayed, in March 2013. Last September, he saddled up with 2K Games to lead development on a new, as-yet unnamed game, and…now he’s working for Microsoft in Canada. Gears fans can hope, at least for the sake of continuity, that Fergusson’s tenure at Black Tusk is less abbreviated.
It sounds like that Epic dotted line will extend to future Gears games’ world-building engines: in a Microsoft Q&A, Black Tusk Studios general manager Hanno Lemke confirmed his team “will collaborate closely with Epic to ensure the inclusion of the Unreal Engine technology into the ‘Gears of War’ franchise going forward remains consistent with the high quality fans have come to expect from the franchise.”