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Epic sold Gears of War franchise to Microsoft because it was getting too expensive

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.

46 Comments
  • Tim Sweeney should stop talking to the press. Windows Central app
  • Why? Because he criticized the UWP?
  • Criticism that was completely validated by the disastrous Windows 10 performance of Quantum Break.  
  • Except he wasn't complaining about the quality or performance, and yes about MS intentions. Windows Central app
  • So now he shouldn't talk about his company or the franchises it created?
  • Except that his criticism wasn't validated at all and everything he wrote turned out to be unfinformed FUD, thereby completely embarassing himself.
  • Everything was completely accurate, MS even confirmed it at build when they went through each issue line by line and said they were working on it. Doubt they would have bothered mentioning them if they weren't accurate. How sad for you, go back to crying about Kinect now. Your comments always make me laugh, just like the failure of UWP gaming. :)
  • "Everything was completely accurate" Nope. He whined about the inability to sideload UWP even though that capability had already existed a half a year earliler. You're just embarassing yourself at this point, just as Sweeney did: do your research before writing uninformed diatribes. UWP gaming is working beautifully. I'm quite enjoying playing Ori and the Blind Forest and Killer Instinct with cross-save on my Windows 10 PC and Xbox One. No other company can offer that.
  • No other company is doing that because there's no demand for it. While it's a cool feature, lets be honest. Most people are going to play a game on a single platform, rather than switch back and forth.
  • Demand... So customers have to collectively wish for a feature before it becomes available? Companies have to take a calculated risk and create something. Once consumers they begin using it, then you can determine the demand.
  • Thank you, the games I have on WP works wonderful on my Surface and Xbox One!
  • There are heaps of games on mobile that have cross save with PC/Web. It's not exclusive to windows or Xbox One.
  • Not quite. There is criticism due, but his criticisms were not. That a platform we know isn't getting a facelift until the summer was problematic in April is not surprising. That doesn't mean we shouldn't hold MS accountable for the problems, but it doesn't mean the platform needs shut down before MS can try to improve it.
  • Because Team Sweeney is not nice guy to follow...he is clearly a Microsoft hater and Totally Money Feed by some Rivals for Writing this kind of comments....dude this is a Huge Marketing Strategy(Dirty Business) do not believe him.
  • You just sound like a fanboy. The dialogue between Sweeney and Spencer was civil. Just because he criticized something from Microsoft, he's automatically hater?
  • Hey it's more brands for Microsoft. They're developing quite a portfolio. Windows Central for Windows 10-Microsoft Lumia 640
  • Are they? They cut Fable, Gigantic is a mess, and they kind of flopped with Kinect games and Screamride. They don't have anything internal to boast for sports or RPGs, with it basically just amounting to Halo, Gears, Forza, and Minecraft right now. Two of those weren't established by MS. It seems like to much is second-party stuff like Sunset Overdrive, Quantum Break, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Ryse, and Dead Rising 3.
  • Quantum Break was fantastic though and a success.
  • One game from a third-party developer without a planned sequel doesn't make a publisher a success, though.
  • *cough* Minecraft. *cough* Windows Central for Windows 10-Microsoft Lumia 640
  • You mean that game they didn't develop, instead throwing billions at it to acquire? I'm guessing they haven't made back that investment yet (though they probably will), and I wouldn't call it ANY kind of showing of the in-house development strength, especially since Mojang's second game, Cobalt, reviewed rather poorly (based on Metacritic averages).
  • Yes they are. But some things don't work out, that's just how it is. Maybe Fable isn't totally dead, it just needs to sit on a backburner for a while. I don't recognize Gigantic or Screamride. And I don't really care about Kinect (I know many others do though). Windows Central for Windows 10-Microsoft Lumia 640
  • "Maybe Fable isn't totally dead, it just needs to sit on a backburner for a while." There hasn't been a new main-series Fable in 5.5 years, and there hasn't been a release of any kind in 3.5 years/ Isn't that the "being on a backburner?" When does going years without a new game and having the latest iteration scrapped and the stuido closed go from "backburner" to "failure?" "I don't recognize Gigantic or Screamride." Which kind of is my point. "And I don't really care about Kinect (I know many others do though)." Which is, again, the point I am making. "Yes they are." Yet you didn't give a single example as to how. You basically just disagreed with my statement, then gave reasons as to why you're wrong.
  • Look, I'm not looking for some stupid internet debate. I'm just not in the mood today. Microsoft has Halo, Minecraft, Gears of War, and they're moving on a lot of other brands and games. They're developing closer relationships with their game developers and ensuring that their platform has the games and brands necessary to drive it forward. And you know what? Not every brand or franchise can come with. The fact that I haven't even heard of Gigantic or Screamride makes me think it obviously wasn't very successful and Fable really only catered to a small group of dedicated fans. Relatively small. They just weren't working out, so they're being left behind. But Microsoft still has those games and brands under their belt if they decide that, in the future, they can do better. But, hey, feel free to keep whining about it. I'm sorry your brands and franchises aren't doing so well. But you cant deny that Microsoft is actively working to collect a portfolio of brands and franchises that are actually profitable. And that's all I have to say on the matter. Please, sir, have a good day. Windows Central for Windows 10-Microsoft Lumia 640
  • So all you have to say is factually inaccurate junk? None of these are "my franchises." I thought Gigantic looked bad from the start. I played Project Spark's beta for all of 20 minutes before I realized I didn't like it. I played the Screamride demo and was disappointed in it. I've never played a single Fable game, including Legends, which I got into the beta for. Calling any of it "my games" is baseless conjecture that simply sounds foolish, when put against reality. You didn't even argue the point you made at any time, really. You said they're developing a portfolio, based on four franchises that are years old--two of which they didn't develop. The franchises you referenced started in 2011, 2006, 2005, and 2001. What you're touting as "developing" is things 5-15 years old. That's established, not developing. What I kept saying (and you keep dodging with nonsense) is that Microsoft's in-house studios haven't done well to present new things in a while. THAT is why "developing a portfolio" is a bad argument.
  • They also essentially cut Project Spark and canned Team Dakota, and they did the same to Press Play and the franchises that studio worked on. Killer Instinct's reboot has been a success, but, as with Gears and Minecraft, that franchise predates Microsoft Studios as well. Ori, on the other hand, is a hit. It'll be interesting to see how ReCore and Scalebound fare.
  • It's funny that you mention Killer Instinct, I was going to criticize Microsoft in a comment in this thread for not making use of Rare's vast library of gaming IPs before I checked the full list and realized KI was one of them. Kudos to Microsoft, I guess! :) Now, if only they'd release a new Battletoads game...!
  • Well, they did Perfect Dark Zero and Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, along with Rare Replay. I'd say it's been used, though not ideally.
  • What sucks is that ReCore and Scalebound, like many of the other good exclusives on the XB1, aren't first-party. They might be good, but they might be one-off releases as well. Microsoft needs to do something to secure either in-house development talent, or they need to get new franchises they control established. Sunset Overdrive would be a great exmaple of that--a game that you normally don't see from Microsoft Studios that was a blast, but seems to have no future. Ryse could have been a God of War alternative, but Crytek wasn't letting it go, apparently, and it's not getting a sequel. Titanfall had some serious drawbacks, and its sequel is likely to be better than the first game, but not an exclusive. Dead Rising appealed to quite a few, but might be over with. Scalebound seems like a typical one-off from Platinum (who isn't a big sequel pusher). I'd like to see long-term game investment from Microsoft Studios. Remedy takes too long with its sequels, which sucks because Quantum Break is such a cool release that it really deserves another release.
  • Exactly......let bygones be gonners Sent from Windows Central App for Windows 10
  • Haven't played GeOW for a number of years but the open beta for 4 brought back some good memories oh that chainsaw bayonet.
  • The bigger story to me is why Gears 4 would cost 10 times what it cost Gears 1...  I get it, that production costs are going to increase as time goes by, but 10x+ seems excessive.  But what do I know, I am not a game developer.
  • Pricing for the actors, more tools, more modes, greater scale of the game.
  • I just got an update for the newest Redstone build, i think it's a little bug fixing update since it only added .1001 at the end of the build number.
  • 14322.1001
  • Enjoying the open beta.....
  • Also not mentioned by Sweeny is the exodus of talent after Tencen bought Epic Games. Many of them, like CliffyB, cashed out and left.
  • Ban Tim Sweeney form Internet......because someone Trying to Keep Franchise Up and Running....because of this Person/comment some people just afraid to buy it.....
  • Because Team Sweeney is not nice guy to follow...he is clearly a Microsoft hater and Totally Money Feed by some Rivals for Writing this kind of comments....dude this is a Huge Marketing Strategy(Dirty Business) do not believe him.
  • If tech people knew the value of money, it wouldn't cost $100MM. There's been so much money in tech for so long that overspending has become the norm, driving up prices of everything. It's like planning a wedding. "I want a custom cake." "Ok, that's $150." "It's for a wedding." "Oh, sorry, it'll be $1,500." Same goes for video game development. There is massive price inflation for everything that goes into making a game.
  • A 5M unit selling game can't have a budget of 100M, was Sweeney crazy? This is probably what happened to Lionhead with Fable legends. Huge budget and deliver a game that doesnt poll well pre release with retailers & your done as a studio.
  • i thought microsoft was funding the game?
  • I hate free to play console games. Just sell me the whole game.  You can sell me DLC packs later if it is any good.
  • When are they going to make bulletstorm 2?
  • Sounds like piss poor management on Sweeny's part. Costs go up, but at some point you have to look internally at your efficiency instead of blaming everyone else.
  • Would be nice if they did some hd remasters of their dos games & port to xb1