In the billion-dollar video game industry these days, it's all but expected for major publishers and development studios to keep their ongoing work, internal structure, and franchise plans concealed behind an impenetrable curtain. So when Microsoft formed a Vancouver game studio known as Black Tusk - claimed to be working on "the next Halo-level franchise" - video game fans had no choice but to wait for further details. Details that, unfortunately, never actually came to light.
As the next-gen console war approached, Microsoft - already holding rights to the system-selling Halo franchise - locked up its other major exclusive, purchasing the rights to the Gears of War series which had, as a launch title for the Xbox 360, made Microsoft a foremost authority in action-based shooters. When former Gears guru Rod Fergusson rejoined Microsoft as head of Black Tusk, it wasn't hard to connect the dots, and now, it's official. Black Tusk is gone, as the studio is now tasked with overseeing the future of the Gears of War series under a new name: The Coalition.
Veteran Gears-heads will recognize the name as a nod to the Coalition of Ordered Governments, or COG, the human alliance of the game's universe (and the source of the nickname for COG soldiers - 'Gears'). The name change and new mission was announced courtesy of Rod Fergusson himself, and while the actual work being done at the studio is unknown - a sequel, reboot, prequel, re-release, action figure-driven Skylanders competitor - Fergusson made it clear that from here on out, The Coalition's name is a not-so-subtle statement about the studio's prime objective:
Beginning today, the Vancouver-based Xbox team working on the Gears of War franchise will be known as The Coalition. What's in a name? In short, The Coalition speaks to who we are as a team, and what it is we're working on.
A coalition is a team of diverse individuals working together for a common purpose, a concept that we feel describes our studio quite well.
When people hear 343 Industries, they associate it with Halo; when they hear Turn 10 Studios, they know that’s who makes Forza. Moving forward, when you hear The Coalition, we want you to think of Gears of War.
Microsoft and The Coalition certainly don't win points for subtlety, but then, Gears of War never won fans based on its elegance or sophistication. It made a tale of space marines on an alien world a household name with brute strength, bullet-frenzied action, and assault rifles equipped with chainsaw bayonets (a weapon adopted for The Coalition's official logo).
We can't blame Microsoft, or Fergusson, for wishing to bring something of a fresh start to the franchise. Many wondered how the series could continue on from the trilogy-concluding Gears of War 3 - a question not really answered by the following prequel, Gears of War: Judgment. With the competition between Microsoft and Sony over mass-appeal shooters far from over, The Coalition's mandate is clear: take the reins of Microsoft's second biggest shooter franchise, and give the public something that will grab headlines.
It would be an exaggeration to say that Gears of War is in trouble as a property; it still enjoys a devoted fan base, and as a first-party exclusive title, it's expected to push the hardware of the Xbox One to its limits. But the times have changed since Epic made the game one of the biggest names in modern console titles, with a feature film adaptation even pitched to studios.
It's hard to know how bright the future of the series may be, but with Fergusson at the helm, and Microsoft branding his team as the new custodians of the franchise, they have a focused goal, if nothing else. Do you have faith that The Coalition will bring the series to new heights, or is there simply too much cutting-edge competition in today's gaming industry? Sound off in the comments.
The next dose of Gears of War will be revealed via Xbox Daily: LIVE @ E3, on Monday June 15 at 4PM Pacific.
Source: Xbox Wire