Microsoft have now officially required the right to the Gears of War brand from Epic Games, placing development of a new game in the series in the the hands of thus far unproven Black Tusk Studio, who has also been working on an unannounced fresh IP, the future of which is now uncertain.
In regards to Black Tusk while they are a new studio they have a formidable array of experienced talent at their disposal. Along with their acquisition of the Gears of War license Microsoft announced that they have also hired Rod Ferguson to take charge of the project at Black Tusk. Rod Ferguson has had a storied career, but is most well known for joining Epic and becoming Cliffy B’s right-hand man, working on the entire Gears trilogy, as well as Gears of War: Judgement. Ferguson also spent time at Irrational helping to finish BioShock: Infinite
Hanno Lemke is the General Manager at Black Tusk, having previously run oversight on several of Microsoft’s big games, including Ryse, the Fable series, Gears of War and Forza. He’s also held the role of Vice President and General Manager at Blackbox, working on the Need for Speed and Skate franchises.
Meanwhile the developmental team has a combined resume of Splinter Cell: Conviction, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, Crysis 2, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, God of War III, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, The Saboteur, and many more. Not bad at all.
With the acquisition of both the Halo and Gears of War licenses Microsoft have now successfully ensured that two of their biggest brand names which are synonmous with Xbox will remain exclusive to their console in the foreseeable future. In my eyes it’s a smart move on Microsoft’s behalf, especially given that Epic didn’t seem interested in doing anything with the series, at least not for another few years. The Gears of War universe is vast and has quite the history, so with a new developer at the helm I’m interested in seeing what can be done with one of my favorite series of all time.
However, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Microsoft and Black Tusk Studios will likely play it very safe for their first foray, focusing on Marcus Fenix and Dom during the Pendulum Wars. The reason for this is Gears of War: Judgement didn’t sell all that well, so it seems likely they’ll want to bring back the lead character of the original trilogy.
Black Tusk Studios were also working on a completely fresh IP, but according to a Tweet they’re currently unsure what they’re going to do with it. There’s over 100 staff at the studio, so while it’s not unconvievable that they could work on both games at once it does seem a bit unlikely. Their official website only lists Gears as the current active project.
And in case the thought crossed your mind Cliff Blezinski has already confirmed that he’ll have nothing to do with the forthcoming Gears of War from Black Tusk.