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Microsoft buys 'Gears of War' rights; Black Tusk working on future series title

Microsoft Game Studios announced Monday it has obtained the rights to the entire "Gears of War" series.

The third-person shooter franchise began in 2006 with the first title that in a trilogy that would chronicle the exploits of disgraced Marcus Fenix and his Delta Squad as they fought against the hordes of subterranean creatures known as Locust on the planet Sera. "Gears of War" went on to sell more than six million copies, setting up two highly anticipated sequels, which helped define the Xbox 360. People Can Fly released a follow-up to the trilogy, "Gears of War Judgment" in 2013, which was met with less critical and commercial success.

As part of the purchase, Microsoft now owns all rights to the previously released games, which it published, as well as any future titles developed. Epic Games, the original steward of the franchise, released a statement confirming the acquisition and promised to continue in its long-standing partnership with 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.”

As part of Monday's announcement, Microsoft noted Vancouver, B.C. based Black Tusk Studios will continue development on future titles in the franchise. In addition, former director of production at Epic Games Rod Fergusson has joined Microsoft and will "play a key studio leadership role" at the studio on development of new titles going forward. Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft Game Studios, said the "Gears" acquisition was common sense for the software giant.

"It all comes back to our commitment to Xbox Fans," he said. "The 'Gears of War' franchise has a very strong, passionate and valued fan base on Xbox. This franchise, and these fans, are part of the soul of Xbox."

Microsoft did not indicate when development will begin on a new "Gears of War" title, but Black Tusk Studio head Hanno Lemke said fans will be hearing about it sooner rather than later.

"We hope to be able to share more news about 'Gears of War' later this year," he said.