Epic Games' co-founder Tim Sweeney has revealed that the developer sold off its Gears of War franchise for the Xbox 360 to its publisher Microsoft because it was getting too expensive for Epic to develop further games in the series.
In a chat with Polygon, Sweeney stated that the first Gears of War game, released in 2006, cost Epic $12 million to make, and it generated $100 million in revenue. However, development costs kept going up for its later installments:
2011's Gears of War 3 cost "about four or five times more" to make than Gears of War did in 2006. According to Sweeney, the way Epic Games was going, the fourth game would have boasted a more than $100 million budget. Making a profit off the project would have required the game to be a major success. "Anything less could put us out of business," Sweeney said.
Epic sold the Gears of War franchise to Microsoft for an undisclosed amount in 2014. Microsoft released Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, a graphically revamped version of the first game in the series, for the Xbox One in 2015. Its in-house developer, The Coalition, is working on the next game in the series, Gears of War 4, which will be released on October 11. Microsoft has not announced how much it is spending to develop Gears of War 4.
Meanwhile, Epic is working on a number of free-to-play projects, including the MOBA shooter Paragon that will launch later in 2016 for the PC and PlayStation 4. It is also still working on the survival game Fortnite for the PC, which was first announced in December 2011.