Microsoft's big announcement to kick off the week was that the company has acquired the full rights to the franchise from developer Epic Games, with development on future titles planned at its fledgling Black Tusk studio in Vancouver.
Respected Producer Rod Fergusson will be joining the Black Tusk team to lead development on the continuation of the franchise he helped create during his time at Epic Games. The move is a surprising choice from Fergusson, as he had only recently relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area where he was establishing a new studio and an 'exciting new project" for publisher 2K Games.
Speaking to Polygon, Fergusson explained his personal transition without mention of the presumed dollar signs:
"First it's a homecoming on many levels — returning to my Canadian homeland after 15 years, returning to Microsoft where my games career got started and of course coming home to making my favorite franchise of all time — Gears of War," he wrote. "Second, I was really impressed with the extremely talented team of people at Black Tusk and I'm really looking forward to working with them to move Gears forward. And third, I never really felt that I was done with Gears and so I was really excited to continue what we started. I have a lot of great ideas of how we can grow the franchise."
Fellow Gears of War creator and current free-agent Cliff Blezinski has taken to his blog
to confirm that he won't be involved in the franchise's new future in any capacity:
I’m not going to move to Vancouver and work on it.
I’m not going to consult on it.
My headspace is in the future now, not the past. I have come to realize that until you give people something new to focus on they will obsess about the past. (good problem to have!)
The announcement has disappointed many Xbox One owners that had been looking forward to the announcement of a new intellectual property from Black Tusk, however Microsoft's Phil Spencer explained to Polygon
that the teaser trailer shown during Microsoft's E3 2013 Media Briefing had been "more of a concept piece"
"The studio has really been incubating different ideas over the past six to nine months on what they might work on," he said, "but the discussion with Epic obviously didn't start yesterday. We've been in this discussion for a while. The leadership team there has known for a while."
Because Black Tusk was already working with the Unreal Engine on Xbox One, the opportunity to bring Gears of War to the studio "was actually a nice coincidence," Spencer said, and not something planned during the formation of the developer.
Microsoft's acquisition of Gears of War is being widely viewed as a parallel to its treatment of the Halo franchise, which was purchased in full from Bungie and similarly handed to a new in-house studio to manage in 343 Industries.
No hint at release date for a new Gears of War game has been offered.