News has just broken that Microsoft have bought all of the IP rights to the Gears of War franchise from Epic Games, and have handed over development on the series to Black Tusk, with Rod Fergusson -- former Director of Production at Epic Games on the Gears of War franchise -- moving back to Microsoft to spearhead the effort.
The deal is a no-brainer for Microsoft, and Phil Spencer said as much in a statement made over on Xbox Newswire:
The “Gears of War” franchise has a very strong, passionate and valued fan base on Xbox. Over twenty-two million units have been sold across all “Gears of War” titles worldwide, grossing over $1B dollars (US). This franchise, and these fans, are part of the soul of 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 will still have close ties to the Xbox One, and with the franchise set to use Unreal Engine 4 going forwards, it's not as if they won't be somewhat involved with at least the technical side of things, but with Fergusson making the jump back to Microsoftr, it looks as if Black Tusk will be looking towards a fairly major recruitment drive.
Epic's CEO Tim Sweeney had this to say on the matter:
Epic Games has reached an agreement to sell the ‘Gears of War’ intellectual property rights to Microsoft. 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. Epic remains totally dedicated to supporting Xbox One and is licensing the Unreal Engine 4 technology to Microsoft in support of their future projects.
Hanno Lemke, General Manager of Black Tusk Studios at Microsoft Studios, also hinted that there'd be Gears of War news coming later this year. Could one of the many titles Black Tusk are working on already have been in preparation for this announcement? We'll almost certainly find out at E3.