Microsoft Acquires 'Gears of War' From Epic, Assigns Next Game To Black Tusk Studios

Jan 27 2014, 10:38am CST | by

Microsoft Acquires 'Gears of War' From Epic, Assigns Next Game To Black Tusk Studios


Microsoft has put a padlock on its Xbox One war chest by acquiring the rights to the popular Gears of War franchise from Epic Games, the software giant announced today. This means that future Gears of War games can and probably will remain exclusive to Microsoft's platforms, having helped to launch the Xbox 360./>

For Microsoft, this deal represents the straightening of a wrinkle which meant that Epic Games owned the Gears of War franchise, with an agreement of platform exclusivity negotiated with Microsoft. For some time, this was a clear win-win, as Gears of War gave Epic a banner title, heavily promoted by Microsoft, which established it as more than the owner and licensor of the Unreal Engine, along with incentives to maintain exclusivity, and Microsoft got a genre-defining action game. With big guns. With big chainsaw bayonets. Handled by big men.

However, the arrival of next-generation consoles was always likely to provoke consolidation, with Microsoft looking to keep hold of its crown jewels after the Xbox One’s first clashes with Sony's PlayStation 4 has seen the Japanese company take an early retail lead. As far back as 2011, Epic’s then-president Mike Capp was expressing a desire to ship a Gears game on PlayStation in competition with Sony’s platform-exclusive titles, telling James Brightman of Industry Gamer:

Do we wish we could take all those Killzone and Resistance fans on PS3, and get them to say ‘Gears is awesome’? Yeah, sure I’d love to ship the Gears trilogy on PlayStation. That would be fun. I want to be there; I want to be everywhere.

This continues the trend of  the major console players prioritizing retention of IP over talent. The most explosive example of this was of course the departure of key staff from Infinity Ward from Activision, which has done little to slow down the Call of Duty juggernaut. Bungie, creators of the  Halo franchise, were allowed to depart from ownership by Microsoft, but the valuable Halo IP was retained at Redmond, developed first by Bungie itself and subsequently by 343 Industries. The Gears of War acquisition includes “all existing and future games, entertainment experiences and merchandise”.

Although the last instalment of the series, Gears of War: Judgment,  underperformed in the market,  affected by the relatively recent release of the climactic Gears of War 3, the absence of the iconic Marcus Fenix in the lead role  and possibly the transfer of much of the creative duties to People Can Fly, which had been purchased and rebranded as Epic Games Poland, it remains one of the most iconic Xbox franchises.  Over its lifetime, the franchise has sold  22 million units, representing over $1 billion.

Locust development in Vancouver

Development duties for the next Gears of War game has been handed over to the relatively unknown Black Tusk Studios,  which was unveiled in November 2012 after a year of stealth development.  Black Tusk, based in Vancouver and featuring a core of former Electronics Arts talent, can trace its origins back to Microsoft’s 2009 acquisition of Vancouver-based BigPark, Inc, the studio of former Microsoft Entertainment head and current Zynga CEO Don Mattrick. BogPark cofounder Hanno Lemke is now general manager of Black Tusk.

Black Tusk Studios’ first project was shrouded in mystery, with a teaser at 2013′s E3 showing what looked like a Splinter Cell-inspired near-future stealth game. Whether this will be developed in parallel with a new Gears of War game or whether the studio has been reassigned has yet to be confirmed – or, indeed whether this was a game at all, rather than a smokescreen to draw attention away from negotiations with Epic. Microsoft’s Phil Spencer told Polygon that it represented a “concept piece”.

If one wishes to accept that Microsoft allows studios to make unrelated assets from non-existent games for their own entertainment which are then shown at the largest digital entertainment event of the year just for the heck of it, that is entirely a matter of personal conscience. This game-not-game was also described as an Xbox One exclusive, which it seems unlikely that the next Gears of War game will be, while Xbox 360 ownership remains high – although the Gears of War game after that may be another matter.

Epic win?

Ironically, one of the initial and major benefits for Epic Games when they allied with Microsoft was the use of the Redmond giant’s  extensive testing resources.  Black Tusk Studios is now likely to benefit from Epic’s ongoing assistance and expertise with the Unreal Engine.

Black Tusk has been skilling up since its launch, and it was also announced today that its ranks will be bolstered by Rod Fergusson, the veteran Gears of War Director of Production who left Epic in August 2012 to help Irrational Games to deliver BioShock Infinite, at the time troubled by delays. BioShock Infinite, despite a slight further slippage in release date, launched in March 2013 to critical acclaim and strong sales, and Fergusson, brought in as a “closer” to replace the departing Tim Gerritsen, left Irrational shortly after its launch.
/>

Despite the relative underperformance of Judgment, Gears of War remains one of Microsoft’s most consistently successful and enduring the recognizable gaming assets. It makes  sense that steps would be taken to ensure that its IP would be kept in the family at a time when both Microsoft and Sony are seeking to tempt consumers with the promise of platform exclusives.  Whether Marcus Fenix and his team  of heavily muscled and possibly slightly overcompensating Gears can fare as well against the PS4 as they did against the Locust and the Lambent remains to be seen.

Create a hauntingly evocative trailer for me to the tune of Gary Jules’ cover version of ‘Mad World’ promising a melancholy that I never exactly manage to deliver on Twitter, or on my Forbes blog.

Source: Forbes Business

 
 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

Mali confirms two new Ebola cases
United Nations, Nov 26 (IANS) Mali has confirmed two new cases of Ebola, bringing to total number of cases in the West African nation to eight, days ahead of the opening of a new UN Ebola response office.
 
 
Merkel warns of recession in Europe
Berlin, Nov 26 (IANS) German Chancellor Angela Merkel Tuesday warned that Europe could slide back into recession, media reported.
 
 
India, Nepal ink nine deals; Modi inaugurates trauma centre, bus service (Roundup)
Kathmandu, Nov 25 (IANS) Nepal's happiness "gives us joy", Prime Minister Narendra Modi said here Tuesday on his second visit to the Himalayan country in 100 days as both sides inked nine agreements, further cementing their close ties.
 
 
India, Nepal ink 10 deals; Modi inaugurates trauma centre, bus service (Intro Roundup)
Kathmandu, Nov 25 (IANS) Nepal's happiness "gives us joy", Prime Minister Narendra Modi said here Tuesday on his second visit to the Himalayan country in 100 days as both sides inked 10 agreements, including on $1 billion assistance to Nepal.
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

Mali confirms two new Ebola cases
United Nations, Nov 26 (IANS) Mali has confirmed two new cases of Ebola, bringing to total number of cases in the West African nation to eight, days ahead of the opening of a new UN Ebola response office. The UN...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Paris Hilton hugs cubs of big cats
Mexico, Nov 26 (IANS) Socialite Paris Hilton, who loves animals, was spotted cuddling lion and tiger cubs on her visit to a big cat sanctuary here. The 33-year-old couldn't resist sharing several videos and...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Don't Miss these Black Friday Deals and Sales
Black Friday 2014 will end in 4 days. The biggest release of deals is still to come, but there are already many Black Friday 2014 Sales underway. Thanksgiving Day mark will be the big launch day for online and in-store...
Read more on Black Friday Countdown
 
Taylor Swift cautious of fake friends
Taylor Swift has no time for fake friends. The 'Shake It Off' hitmaker says she's not interested in being friends with people who are only keen on spending time with her because she's rich and famous. She explained: ''...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Cyber Monday Deals better than Black Friday Deals?
Black Friday 2014 Sales are underway. We count over 12 Black Friday 2014 sales that either have fully launched or offer a selection of the advertised Black Friday deals. Each year there is discussion about if Black...
Read more on Black Friday Countdown
 
Shia LaBeouf abides by plea deal
Shia LaBeouf is abiding by the plea deal he reached with Manhattan prosecutors after his drunken meltdown in June. The 'Fury' actor appeared in Manhattan Criminal Court earlier today (25.11.14) to submit proof he's been...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
The Best Laptop Deal in Black Friday 2014
Black Friday 2014 is here and the first Black Friday 2014 Sales are already underway. The full push of Black Friday 2014 deals happens on Thanksgiving Day. So there is still a little time to make your shopping lists. If...
Read more on Black Friday Countdown
 
Cheryl Fernandez-Versini blasts Simon Cowell over weight comments
Cheryl Fernandez-Versini has blasted Simon Cowell for commenting on her weight. The 31-year-old beauty said it was ungentlemanly for a man in his 50s to suggest she'd gained weight prior to her brief appearance on the...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Nick Cannon denies links to Amber Rose
Nick Cannon has denied having any romance with Amber Rose. The 34-year-old entertainer recently separated from Mariah Carey, whom he married in 2008, and has since been romantically linked to Amber Rose, 31, who filed...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
The Best TV Deals on Black Friday
Black Friday is one of the best times to buy TVs. It is the best time to get your hands on bargain TV deals like a $79 32-inch TV or a $119 40-inch TV. You see such deals never during the year. You also do not see such...
Read more on TV Balla