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Microsoft buys Gears of War series

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Gears of War 3 (Credit: Epic Games)

Marcus Fenix may not be done with his battle against the Locust.

Microsoft has acquired the rights to the Gears of War series from creator and former franchise developer Epic Games, ensuring that the series -- one of the tentpoles of the Xbox line -- doesn't wander onto another system.

To ensure it stays in good hands, Microsoft has hired Rod Fergusson, the former executive producer of the first three games in the series, to oversee the franchise moving forward. (It must have been a Godfather-like offer, too. Fergusson, less than four months ago, announced he was joining 2K Games to lead a new studio.)

Microsoft’s not quite ready to talk about what it plans to do with Gears just yet. The company, though, did say to expect an announcement before the end of the year, so it's not a bad bet this will be part of its E3 presentation in June.

"The Gears of War franchise has a very strong, passionate and valued fan base on Xbox," said Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft Studios. "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 has certainly been a moneymaker for Microsoft. The series has grossed over $1 billion in sales since its introduction in 2006. The first three games were tremendous hits, though the fourth, Gears of War: Judgment, fell a bit short last year.

Microsoft’s Black Tusk studio will take over duties for the franchise -- and if you've never heard of them, there's a reason. Black Tusk hasn't yet proven itself, though it did make its debut at E3 last year with a slick teaser trailer (which Microsoft now says was just a concept piece - and not a real game). But keep in mind no one had heard of 343 Studios before Halo 4, and sales and reviews for that game erased any doubts about their qualifications.

Epic Games, meanwhile, took the opportunity to remind people that despite the sale of the franchise and the recent departures of some of its biggest names, including Fergusson, Cliff Bleszinski and president Mike Capps, it's still very much committed to creating new game franchises.

"For people saying Epic isn't making games anymore, we currently have multiple games in development, including [Fortnite]," Epic spokesperson Wes Phillips tweeted this morning.

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