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'Gears of War' franchise purchased by Microsoft from Epic Games

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Xbox Vice President Phil Spencer teased big Xbox One game new for Monday and delivered with an announcement that Microsoft purchased the rights to the Gears of War franchise from Epic Games. Additionally, former Gears producer Rod Fergusson will return to helm the franchise.

The purchase includes the rights to all existing Gears of War games as well as future games in the franchise. The series will be handled by Microsoft's Black Tusk Studios going forward with Rod Fergusson leaving a short-lived position with a new 2K Games studios to return to the Gears fold. Prior to that, he helped Irrational Games put the finishing touches on BioShock Infinite and get it shipped out the door.

"I’m extremely excited to be joining Black Tusk Studios to oversee development on the Gears of War franchise," Fergusson wrote in a statement on the Xbox News Wire. "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."

Meanwhile, Spencer stated that Microsoft made the purchase because of the "very strong, passionate and valued fan base" for Gears of War on the Xbox.

Gears of War 3 was a success for both Epic Games and Microsoft when it was released for the Xbox 360 in 2011 but the follow-up prequel, Gears of War: Judgment, didn't meet expectations. Epic Games appeared to be done with the project as it moved on to supporting Unreal Engine 4 and creating other game titles.

“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,” said Epic founder and CEO Tim Sweeney. “Epic remains totally dedicated to supporting Xbox One and is licensing the Unreal Engine 4 technology to Microsoft in support of their future projects.”

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