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  (Source: Microsoft)
Black Tusk Studios in Vancouver will develop an Xbox One Gears of War title

It's well known that Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) is looking to pump up the number of high profile exclusive titles for its Xbox One, creating iconic franchises of television and game series.  In many ways Microsoft's model is following in the line of Sega Corp. (a subsidiary of Sega Sammy Holdings Inc. (TYO:6460) and Nintendo Comp., Ltd. (TYO:7974) which became iconic names with household franchises like Sonic the Hedgehog (Sega), the Mario Brothers  (Nintendo), and Zelda (Nintendo).
 
On Monday Microsoft Studios, the game development arm of Microsoft, announced a major score, acquiring the rights to the popular Gears of War franchise from Epic Games, Inc.
 
Selling over 22 million units worldwide and pulling in over $1B USD in revenue, the Gears of War franchise was an incredible success under Epic -- which also developed the Unreal engine and Unreal Tournament franchise.  But there were also reoccurring rumors that Epic was unhappy with its exclusivity relationship with Microsoft for the franchise. 
 
Epic founder and CEO Tim Sweeney was nothing but warm to Microsoft, though, saying he was "proud of the franchise we built in close partnership with Microsoft."  In its press release, though, Microsoft showed nothing but love for Epic, calling it a "great partner". 

Gears of War

In addition to games, the franchise had bred a board game, several comic books, novels, and even an upcoming movie.  Phil Spencer, Microsoft Studios chief called the Gears of War franchise "part of the soul of Xbox."

At Microsoft the development of an Xbox One title for the franchise will be tasked to Black Tusk Studios.  The studio is located in Vancouver, British Columbia and employs over 100 developers, artists, and managers.  The leadership of the studio largely came from former Electronic Arts, Inc. (EA) employees, including some laid off in recent company cuts.

According to the Vancouver Sun:

Studio staff have an average of 12 years experience in triple-A games, the industry’s equivalent of Hollywood summer blockbuster movies — "big games, big teams, big budgets, long timelines," said studio manager Mike Crump.

Gears of War

Some employees are expected to migrate from Epic to Microsoft, although much of the development team will be composed of newcomers to the franchise.  Part of Epic's sale agreement includes provisions for production director Rod Fergusson to stay on and manage the franchise development at Black Tusk.  Mr. Fergusson comments in the press release:

I’m extremely excited to be joining Black Tusk Studios to oversee development on the “Gears of War” franchise. I’ve been privileged to work on a lot of great games with a lot of great teams, but “Gears” has had the most impact on me professionally and personally, so this really feels like a homecoming. I can’t wait to share more with you all soon.

The studio operated in stealth mode until Nov. 2012 when it went public.  It is Microsoft's third studio in the Vancouver area, one of the closest urban centers to Microsoft's U.S. home in Seattle, Washington.

Mike Crump
Mike Crump, a former EA veteran, is pictured here at Black Tusk Studios where he's a manager. [Image Source: Jason Payne/PNG]

The studio gets its name from a seashore hiking landmark found between Vancouver and Whistle.

In the near term, the deal gives Microsoft licensed access to Epic's Unreal Engine 4 engine.  Epic says it will focus on "new projects".  The purchase price was not disclosed.

Source: Microsoft Studios



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Good
By Flunk on 1/27/2014 2:20:47 PM , Rating: 3
This frees up Epic to build some new, great IP. Gears of War was fun but I think 3 games was enough.




RE: Good
By datdamonfoo on 1/27/2014 2:56:16 PM , Rating: 2
There are 4 though.


RE: Good
By retrospooty on 1/27/2014 4:01:47 PM , Rating: 4
Thats about 3 too many IMHO. I didn't think it was fun at all. Just another "game on rails". Hopefully MS does something with it to make it fun, which is what it was missing to me.


RE: Good
By blueaurora on 1/27/2014 9:32:24 PM , Rating: 2
Only three worth playing though. I thought 1 was phenomenal. That haunting commercial made my buy the damned 360 they are right about it being part of the soul of xbox. That ip is used up though. Gears of war would need a total revamp. The best they can hope for would be faction based battle. Human Vs Human after the fall of the world while rebuilding society. Call of Duty: Gears of War style.

Could be interesting... likely to be crap IMHO.


RE: Good
By TSS on 1/27/2014 3:04:03 PM , Rating: 2
Don't know about you but i'm still waiting for the next, great Unreal Tournament. Thought it was pretty weak how they blamed the lack of sales on piracy while the game was just a shadow of unreal 2004.

Remember kids - forsake gameplay for flashy looks and people aren't going to buy it. Until they can make UT great again i'm not exactly going to trust them to make another franchise.

If they just stick to making engines that's fine too. Unreal engine 3 has probably been the most succesfull engine ever.


RE: Good
By therealnickdanger on 1/27/2014 3:10:37 PM , Rating: 2
I still go back and forth between UT99 and 2K4. I couldn't get into UT3.


RE: Good
By inperfectdarkness on 1/30/2014 5:31:48 AM , Rating: 2
This. Unreal is the goose that laid the golden egg for Epic (way back when they were "Epic Megagames"). Unreal was everything that Q3 lacked. UT2k4 was such a massively great game, I ended up playing UTRPG mode for close to 6 years. It was so deliciously awesome that they even inspired clones (Borderlands). A large part of that was due to their "Make Something Unreal" contest, which--among other things--blessed the community with Red Orchestra, Carball, Jailbreak, and Alien Swarm (yes, THAT Alien Swarm).

Gears of war--love it or hate is--is the undeniable reason why Epic has left Unreal to rot. I'm ecstatic that it's going to MS, where it can thrive as a mediocre FPS along with it's mediocre cousin, Halo...satisfying the bland tastes of console die-hards.

Epic needs to go back to the drawing board and re-invent the FPS in the same fashion it did back in 1999. There were several things about UT3 that could have been so much better, but it just couldn't deliver. Epic needs to embrace fan-modding again (something that consoles will NEVER outshine PC's at). It also wouldn't hurt if they released a sequel to Unreal 2.

P.S.
UT needs RPG mode. And assault mode. And Preferably both combined. Monster Assault RPG in 2k4 was like FPS crack.


On a somewhat related note
By datdamonfoo on 1/27/2014 2:58:12 PM , Rating: 2
I just started playing Gears of War 2 yesterday. For a game that's over 5 years old, its graphics are still superb.




RE: On a somewhat related note
By therealnickdanger on 1/27/2014 3:09:38 PM , Rating: 1
... for an N64.


RE: On a somewhat related note
By swaaye on 1/27/2014 5:54:37 PM , Rating: 2
I think that perhaps you haven't played N64 recently! ;)


By cubdukat on 1/28/2014 7:42:20 AM , Rating: 2
I would think we woulda been up to Unreal 5 or UT2012 by now...




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