In case you missed it, Microsoft revealed earlier this morning that they have purchased the rights to the Gears of War franchise from developer Epic , ensuring the series will remain an Xbox exclusive.
They also announced that developer Black Tusk will be handling the future development of the series. While Black Tusk has yet to release a game, they’ve teased in the past that they are working on a secret project of sorts that (according to the studio’s Wikipedia page) is intended to rival the Halo franchise as Microsoft’s flagship title.
As part of this move, Black Tusk will be joined by Rod Fergusson, who served as executive producer on the first three Gears of War games.
This of course isn’t the first time that Microsoft has taken measures into their own hands when it comes to securing their hottest exclusive properties, as they infamously took over the Halo franchise from developer Bungie and passed it off to 343 Industries, resulting in 2012’s “Halo 4.”
The acquisition of Gears, however, doesn’t feel quite the same. While the series was perhaps the exclusive IP poster child for the Xbox 360, it never quite became the Halo substitute that Microsoft seemed to have hoped it would be.
It’s a series that has always been extremely well made, but rarely felt special in the way that the biggest of franchises do. Also, while the series has always sold well, sales did peak with Gears of War 2. In fact the latest installment in the series, Gears of War: Judgement, represented an over five million unit sales drop from that high point.
Still, this is a no doubt very expensive move that Microsoft absolutely had to make.
The name value of the Gears of War franchise may not be quite what it was once upon a time, but if the series had gone to the PS4 that would have changed overnight. It’s a situation similar to an aging veteran in a contract year on an NFL team. Though they may not have as much to contribute on the field and still command a high asking price, losing them would just make your own fans cry foul and give another team’s fans a reason to celebrate very vocally.
The only curious bit regarding this move is the choice of Black Tusk as the series new developer. Not because a new developer can’t handle established franchises (again, see Halo 4) but rather because it seemed for a time that whatever unknown title the developer was previously working on was meant to be a rather big deal for the Xbox One. Even though Black Tusk has revealed that project was in its very early stages, it seems rather odd that Microsoft would have an unknown developer handle AAA double duty like this.
Hopefully we’ll know more about both this new Gears of War title, and whatever else Black Tusk may be working on, in the months to come.