Source: A GameDaily interview with Jeff Bell, Microsoft's corporate vice president of global marketing.
What we heard: Though it might not be Halo 3, there's little question that Gears of War is a monster hit for the Xbox 360. Less than two weeks after its release, the game surpassed Halo 2 as the most-played title on Xbox Live. It has topped charts in the UK and was second only to The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess on Bestbuy.com's sales rankings for the week of November 13 to 19. As of November 21, two weeks after its release, more than 1 million units of the game had sold worldwide.
In addition to its popular success, Gears of War is also arguably the best-reviewed game of the year. Besides earning a 9.6 from GameSpot--tying the Xbox 360 Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion as the highest-rated game of 2006--Epic Games' shooter enjoys a sparkling 95 metascore on Metacritic, which averages dozens of game-review Web sites' ratings.
Given Gears of War's ability to tickle critics and mint money, a sequel is a near certainty. However, the GameDaily interview with Bell appears to reveal Microsoft has even grander plans for the game. When outlining his company's holiday ad blitz, the marketing guru gushed about Gears' burgeoning popularity. "Gears of War is a popular culture phenomenon in the making," he said, referencing a semicontroversial television advertisement. "The goal of this ad is to establish Marcus Fenix as the hero of the Gears of War trilogy. The intention is to create emotional connection with him that is lacking in typical third-person action title marketing." (Emphasis added.)
The official story: "Whenever a title enjoys the type of attention Gears of War is receiving, there is bound to be speculation and discussion about future installments. While we are discussing future plans for this very exciting franchise, we have not made any formal announcements."--Microsoft rep.
Bogus or not bogus?: Though it might be a ways off--the original took over two years to develop--Gears of War 2 is pretty much a lock, particularly given its (SPOILER ALERT) cliff-hanger ending (END SPOILER). As for a third, Bell's words appear to unofficially confirm comments made by Epic's meteoric lead designer Cliff Bleszinski, who has said on numerous occasions he wants to make Gears a trilogy along the lines of Halo. Now, it would appear Microsoft does too, though they're not talking about it openly...yet.