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Microsoft acquires Gears Of War rights

Black Tusk Studios takes over from Epic Games

Microsoft has acquired the rights to the Gears Of War franchise from series creator Epic Games, it's announced.

The platform holder's new Black Tusk studio, based in Vancouver, will take over development of the series, with news on the next Gears of War game set to arrive later this year.

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"Today we're excited to announce that Microsoft Studios has acquired the rights to the Gears Of War franchise from Epic Games, including rights to all existing and future games, entertainment experiences and merchandise," reads a statement from the company.

"In addition, we are excited to announce that Black Tusk Studios in Vancouver, BC will take over development of the Gears Of War franchise and that Rod Fergusson, former director of production at Epic Games on the Gears of War franchise, will join Microsoft and play a key studio leadership role at Black Tusk on the development of the franchise going forward."

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Hot property: Rod Fergusson was head-hunted by Irrational Games, 2K and Microsoft

Fergusson, a widely respected games producer, departed from Epic Games in August 2012 to work on Irrational's BioShock Infinite project. He left Irrational in April 2013, and several months later claimed to have started a new studio funded by 2K Games.

Black Tusk Studios formed in late 2012 as a rebranded version of Microsoft Vancouver. At the time it was formed, studio manager Mike Crump said Black Tusk was "working on Microsoft's next big entertainment franchise".

Microsoft Studios head Phil Spencer said today Black Tusk has assembled "a world-class team with deep experience and passion for the shooter space, and specifically the Gears of War franchise".

Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney said in a statement that the sale of the Gears franchises would allow the Unreal Engine studio to concentrate on "new projects".

"Epic Games has reached an agreement to sell the Gears Of War intellectual property rights to Microsoft," the statement read.

"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."

Black Tusk's GM, Hanno Lemke said the studio will collaborate closely with Epic "to ensure the inclusion of the Unreal Engine technology into the Gears of War franchise going forward remains consistent with the high quality fans have come to expect from the franchise."

Epic Games is currently working on co-operative action game Fortnite.

The Gears Of War series was considered one of the Xbox 360's flagship franchises, with over twenty-two million copies sold across all titles worldwide grossing over $1 billion.

Although all four Gears of War titles were released exclusively on Xbox 360 - and the franchise has become synonymous with the console - series rights previously remained with Epic. Microsoft's acquisition will ensure Gears of War remains Xbox exclusive indefinitely.

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