Vancouver’s Black Tusk Studios working on new Gears of War game after Microsoft acquires franchise
The first video game from Black Tusk Studios will be a new Gears of War title. But that’s not the only thing the Vancouver developer will be working on, as the studio has been given responsibility for the entire Gears of War franchise.
In a phone interview on Friday (January 24), Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft Studios, told the Georgia Straight that Microsoft has acquired the Gears franchise from Epic Games. The deal, being announced on January 27, includes all assets, products, and trademarks. Financial terms were not disclosed, but Spencer said that since 2006, 22 million units of the four games have sold, generating over a billion dollars in revenue.
“It’s going to be an exciting time,” said Spencer, who said the acquisition gives Microsoft “complete freedom to move the franchise forward”.
Hanno Lemke heads up Black Tusk, which was running secretly for a year before being revealed in November 2012. At the time, Mike Crump told the Straight that the developers were “building the next Halo” and while Gears of War isn’t a new intellectual property, the comparison is apt.
Like the Halo franchise was handed to 343 Industries, so has the Gears franchise been handed to Black Tusk. And Lemke expects to learn something from his counterparts in Redmond, Washington.
“They did a tremendous job,” he said in a phone interview, referring to how 343 has turned Halo into a transmedia property. “We have similar ambitions. The game remains central to our focus, but we do want to extend the IP beyond just what we’ve seen to date.”
Lemke wouldn’t get into specifics about exactly what Black Tusk is creating. “Our portfolio plan will be it's not just one big release, it's going to be multiple releases over time,” he said. “I think the fans will be super excited to get a sense of the breadth of what we're planning. We've got massive plans for this franchise.”
To support those efforts, Microsoft has hired Rod Fergusson to join Black Tusk as studio manager in charge of the Gears franchise. Fergusson, formerly Epic’s director of production for the Gears games, is a key addition, said Lemke. “He’s got deep experience understanding the core franchise tenets, the DNA of Gears.” Spencer calls Fergusson a “great addition to the leadership team”.
“I’m extremely excited to be joining Black Tusk Studios to oversee development on the ‘Gears of War’ franchise,” Fergusson said in a statement. “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.”