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If you missed it earlier, Microsoft announced some pretty big news that affects the future of the Xbox One. They have purchased the Gears of War IP from Epic Games for all existing and future games as well as entertainment experiences and merchandise rights. Not only that they also announced that Black Tusk studios will be developing the next game in the series and that Rod Fergusson has joined the studio in a leadership role to oversee the future of the franchise. That is definitely a lot to take in.
Let’s backtrack slightly and look at the history of the series which shows this was pretty much an inevitability. After Epic finished work on the trilogy it was clear they had no further plans for the series and many key players at the studio left. After what now looks like pressure from Microsoft to release a new game, Epic worked alongside People Can Fly and released GOW: Judgment which is as close to a cash grab in a franchise you can get. It makes sense that Epic have done everything they want with the series and with it being Microsoft’s 2nd biggest exclusive franchise on the Xbox 360, it’s no surprise they want to continue releasing new games. So this deal pretty much benefits both sides.
So what does this mean for the series itself? The trilogy was wrapped up very nicely and Judgment showed that even with a nonsense story that made no sense, fantastic gameplay and entertainment can carry you a very long way as it was still a fun game. It would make sense to try and set up a brand new trilogy as it not only is the most profitable idea but it seems to be the in thing to do right now. That leads them with two options; use all the old characters from the first three games or start a brand new story with new characters in the same setting.
I think brand new characters is what would be best for the series as I really liked the conclusion in Gears 3 and wouldn’t want them to start messing with it by trying to find ways to start the conflict once again. Of course trying to sell brand new characters even in a recognizable brand is very risky and something I think Microsoft have zero intention on doing. Considering how reluctant they are to make Halo games without Master Chief, which is a more well known franchise, this shows me the chances of a new trilogy without Marcus and co is very small indeed. Which is a real shame.
Of course there is no need to totally jump into a new trilogy right away. They could just make another stand alone game and try out many new ideas and concepts. After all, this is brand new hardware and an almost completely different team working on the series for the first time. Again history shows us Microsoft isn’t too worried about this after 343 Industries dived straight into a new Halo trilogy (They did Halo Anniversary but this wasn’t a new game) so it wouldn’t surprise me if they do the same here. I just don’t think the business decisions they are likely to make reflect what I think is best for the franchise.
I personally love the Gears of War franchise. It gets a lot of hate for starting the bro shooter trend, but I still think it has by far the best third person shooter mechanics in any game and is still one of the most fun experiences I have playing with friends via co-op, horde, or multiplayer. I do however find myself extremely reluctant to get excited about a new game. Some things are best left untouched and after an incredible trilogy, I would be happy if I never played another game in the series. I would rather see the talented people that made it do something else and this is pretty much what has happened.
There are two people that made the series what it is today more than anyone else. The first is Cliff Bleszinski who left Epic after Gears 3 and since then has been enjoying his retirement. He has talked a lot recently about wanting to form a new studio and create a new shooter for the PC and to me that is more exciting than anything Gears related in the future.
The 2nd person is Rod Fergusson. Him being involved in the future of the franchise is the only thing that gives me a glimmer of hope that the new games could be anywhere the quality of it’s predecessors. However even with Rod involved he is still only one person and with a completely new team and ideas on what the franchise should be, who knows which direction the new games will go in.
Considering the amount of money Microsoft had to spend to get this IP, it wouldn’t surprise me if their goal is to release a new game every other year alongside Halo so they have at least one game from the two franchises released each year. This is exactly what I don’t want from the franchise and it is with love and a heavy heart that I would rather see the series disappear than just become some annual thing that never feels new or exciting.
I will obviously reserve judgment until the game is released but as my favorite series from the last generation, I want experiences on the next generation to not be the same old thing as before. Hopefully they can make it feel like something new in a familiar setting but the chances of that actually happening are so slim, I would rather just keep the great memories I had with the franchise and move on.