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Microsoft buys Gears of War from Epic

Xbox maker acquires rights to the popular franchise; Black Tusk Studios taking over development duties with producer Rod Fergusson leading the team; details on new projects coming later this year.

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Microsoft announced today that it has acquired the rights to the Gears of War franchise from Epic Games. This deal includes rights to all existing and future games, as well as "entertainment experiences," and merchandise. As part of the arrangement, Microsoft's new outfit Black Tusk Studios will take over development on the Gears of War franchise, which will continue to be produced using Epic's Unreal Engine technology.

Black Tusk Studios general manager Hanno Lemke said Microsoft will "collaborate closely" with Epic to make sure Microsoft's implementation of the Unreal Engine technology going forward "remains consistent with the high quality fans have come to expect from the franchise." You can expect to hear more about Microsoft's plans for the future of Gears of War later in 2014, the company said.

“Epic Games has reached an agreement to sell the Gears of War intellectual property rights to Microsoft. We’re very proud of the franchise we built in close partnership with Microsoft over the past decade and are happy that this agreement enables Microsoft to forge ahead with the Gears universe on their industry-leading platforms as Epic concentrates its efforts on new projects,” Epic founder and CEO Tim Sweeney said.

While fans might be anxious about a new studio heading up development of beloved Xbox-exclusive Gears of War franchise, you might be happy to learn series veteran Rod Fergusson has joined Microsoft to play a "key studio leadership role" at Black Tusk on the franchise going forward. Fergusson has been a journeyman of late. After leaving Epic in 2012 after seven years with the company, he joined Irrational Games to help the company finish BioShock: Infinite. After development on the game was done, he quit Irrational in April 2013 and announced in September that he would launch a new 2K Games studio in Marin, California, but it appears Microsoft made a better offer.

"Black Tusk has assembled a world-class team with deep experience and passion for the shooter space, and specifically the Gears of War franchise," Microsoft Studios executive Phil Spencer said. "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 franchise."

Financial terms of the Microsoft/Epic deal for the Gears of War were not disclosed. Epic is currently working on PC-exclusive Fortnite.

The Gears of War franchise is one of the Xbox platform's leading series. It has spanned four titles so far: Gears of War (2006), Gears of War 2 (2008), Gears of War 3 (2011), and Gears of War: Judgment (2013). Together, the games have sold more than 22 million copies and generated over $1 billion. Gears of War Exile, rumored to be a Kinect-enabled spinoff, was canceled.

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