Gears of War 3 due in April 2011?

UK magazine Edge claims trailer for Epic Games' trilogy capper will arrive next month; game allegedly pushed out of Q4 to keep focus on Natal.

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Source: The online edition of UK game-industry magazine Edge.

What we heard: As far back as November 2006, Microsoft has been making references to a "Gears of War Trilogy." At the 2008 Game Developers Conference, Epic Games design director Cliff Bleszinski made a surprise appearance to announce Gears of War 2 would ship later that year--just two years after the original.

Will Gears hero Marcus Fenix be sporting the latest spring fashions…in armor plating?
Will Gears hero Marcus Fenix be sporting the latest spring fashions…in armor plating?

Given those two precedents, many expected some news about Gears of War 3 at Epic Games' GDC 2010 press briefing leading up to a fall 2010 release. However, the developer instead used its presentation to show off some new features of its Unreal Engine 3 and how they're being used in the massively multiplayer action game APB.

With Gears 3 missing from GDC, speculation brewed about whether the game would stick to the series' biannual release schedule. Citing "a trusted US publishing source," Edge says the game will arrive in April 2011, after the first quarter but before publisher Microsoft's fiscal year ends in June. A trailer for the game will reportedly unspool next month, with a full reveal set for the Electronic Entertainment Expo in June.

Why so late? Two reasons. First off, Edge's source says that Microsoft pushed the game out of 2010 so it wouldn't divert consumer dollars from the fall launch of Project Natal, the Xbox 360's camera-based motion-sensing system. Secondly, the first quarter of 2011 is when Electronic Arts will publish an as-yet untitled shooter from Epic Games' Polish studio People Can Fly, maker of the Painkiller games. Releasing Gears of War 3 then would pit one Epic game against another--something the North Carolinian studio wouldn't abide.

Even the Locust must yield to Project Natal, apparently.
Even the Locust must yield to Project Natal, apparently.

The official story: "Microsoft does not comment on rumors or speculation." -- Microsoft rep.

Bogus or not bogus?: Though factually thin, the April 2011 theory makes sense. As noted above, the timing is spot-on. Microsoft has said it is treating Natal's debut with the same importance as a console launch, meaning even the mighty Gears series might have to move out of the way. There's also the not-so-small matter of Halo: Reach already filling the shooter slot on many 360 owners' holiday shopping lists.

Finally, April has proven a sweet spot for shipping blockbuster series and recognized IPs. Since it launched on April 28, 2008, Grand Theft Auto IV has sold over 15 million units worldwide. Ubisoft and Microsoft are also betting the month will be fortuitous for Splinter Cell: Conviction, which launches April 13.

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