Tim Sweeney opened up to Polygon about his studio’s decision to sell the Gears of War franchise to Microsoft. He revealed the decision was due to the increasing costs for developing Gears of War 4, and how those high costs made Gears of War 4 too much of a risk for Epic Games.
Sweeney’s studio, Epic Games, estimated Gears of 4 would have cost more than $100 million to make. For comparison, Sweeney shared that the original Gears of War cost $12 million in 2006, and Gears of War 3 cost about four to five times more than that in 2011. He also revealed that Gears of War made about $100 million in revenue, making it highly profitable. But clearly as game development costs increased, each version of Gears of War became less profitable.
With projected costs for Gears of War topping $100 million, Sweeney and his team realized that if the game was anything less than a runaway hit in sales his studio would risk going out of business. And, understandably, it was a risk they weren’t willing to take. So this coupled with what they were observing at other game studios, they decided to change their business model and sell the intellectual property of Gears of War to Microsoft.
We realized that the business really needed to change its approach quite significantly. We were seeing some of the best games in the industry being built and operated as live games over time rather than big retail releases.
Since then Epic Games as moved on to producing free to play games with ongoing games with longer lifespans rather than huge blockbuster releases. Two of their upcoming free to play games include a MOBA game titled Paragon, and Fortnite, a survival game.
In the meantime, Gears of War 4 is in its last months of development and will be launching on October 11th 2016.