Fans of the Gears of War franchise have had very little to go on in recent months, to the point where even Microsoft stated that the series had fallen on the back burner. Those who preferred the core installments of the third-person shooter were less than impressed by Gears of War: Judgment, and the sales for that particular entry backed up what many in the industry already knew.

Fortunately, Microsoft has no intention of allowing Gears of War to dwindle into obscurity, because it has officially purchased the rights to the series — making it forever an Xbox exclusive.

After Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft Studios, announced that Microsoft would be making a game announcement this morning, many believed that Ruffian Games’ rumored Crackdown 3 would finally be unveiled. As it turns out, this wasn’t the case, but the return of the beloved Gears of War franchise is more than reason enough to get excited about Microsoft’s latest announcement.

Spencer, understandably excited about the acquisition, then proceeded to talk about why his company opted to buy the Locust-centric property and just how important the brand is to Xbox in general.

“It all comes back to our commitment to Xbox fans. 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.”

Gears of War Judgment Cover Reveal

Microsoft continued by laying out a brief game plan (no pun intended) of sorts for the latest addition to its family, starting with establishing which studio will be taking over the development of Gears of War. The Vancouver-based Black Tusk Studios will now be the flagship developer of the franchise from here on out, which may have some longtime Gears aficionados concerned given that the studio is unproven. To ensure that gamers will be getting a familiar, albeit next-gen, experience, Microsoft announced today that Rod Fergusson will be returning to work on the next game.

Fergusson previously took on the positions of executive producer and director of production for the first three Gears of War titles, so it’s obvious to see why he was approached to continue his work on the franchise. After Rod’s departure from Epic Games in 2012, the acclaimed producer moved on to help 2K Games finish off BioShock Infinite. After development on the award-winning title wrapped up, however, 2K Games had previously announced plans to allow Fergusson build a brand new 2K-owned studio. As is now apparent, that deal has fallen through, and the Gears of War veteran will be returning to the brand he helped put on the map.

Rod Fergusson is understandably excited to be going back to his roots, and issued the following statement:

“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.”

Gears of War 3 Update Spectator Mode

The acquisition of Gears of War from Epic Games occurred for a currently unknown price, but it gives Microsoft full rights to the previously released games, merchandising, and future “entertainment experiences.” These entertainment experiences will almost definitely tie in with the cross-media push that’s begun for Microsoft all-in-one console, the Xbox One, which will see that Halo gets a television series in the near future — the same Halo series that was recently rumored to have its pilot directed by Neill Blomkamp.

Word on official plans for the next iteration of Gears of War is still missing in action, but Hanno Lemke, general manager of Black Tusk, announced that news will be coming later this year. Furthermore, some may recall seeing a teaser for a new Black Tusk Studios game during E3 2013. It’s now been confirmed by Phil Spencer that the trailer shown at the media briefing “was something that was done in Unreal and more of a concept piece,” so don’t expect to see that title in action anytime soon — if ever.

Are you excited for the return of Gears of War? Do you think Black Tusk Studios is the right team for the job? Does Rod Fergusson’s return to the franchise make you excited?


You can follow Riley on Twitter @TheRileyLittle.

Sources: Polygon & Xbox Wire