Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but as Microsoft and Sony compete for buyers of its new video game consoles, exclusive titles are increasingly seen as an incentive to boost sales.
“Gears of War” is one of the top gaming franchises, having sold over 22 million copies since 2006, and earning more than $1 billion. Hollywood also has attempted to turn the series into a film franchise over the years with the game once set up at New Line.
The “Gears” games already had been an exclusive title for Microsoft, with each released on the Xbox.
But with its purchase of Epic, it was clear Microsoft was worried it might lose one of its biggest moneymakers.
In addition to “Gears of War,” Microsoft’s exclusive titles for the Xbox One also include the next “Halo,” “Ryse: Son of Rome,” “Foza Motorsports 5,” “Titanfall” and “Dead Rising 3.”
“This franchise, and these fans, are part of the soul of Xbox,” said Phil Spencer, Microsoft’s head of videogame development for the Xbox. “By acquiring this franchise, Microsoft Studios will continue to offer them more of their favorite games and entertainment experiences from the ‘Gears of War’ universe.”
Epic’s former director of production Rod Fergusson will oversee development of future “Gears of War” titles, with the exec joining Microsoft.
Microsoft’s Vancouver-based studio Black Tusk will handle production on the games.
Epic will continue to work with Microsoft, with the gamemaker licensing its Unreal 4 engine to the company for future “Gears of War” titles.
“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,” said Epic Games founder and CEO Tim Sweeney.
“Gears of War” creator Cliff Bleszinski is leaving the franchise, however.
“To be honest, I don’t think the franchise could be in better hands,” the former Epic exec wrote on his blog after the sale was announced. “Gears is just as much Rod’s baby as it was mine. He’ll take good care of her … and I think Black Tusk will do a fantastic job with Gears.”
“I suppose this puts the nail in the coffin of the question ‘Will Gears ever come to Playstation?’ Safe to say that’s not likely to happen,” he added.