When Epic announced its intention to wind down "Gears of War" in late 2011, it robbed Microsoft of an important Xbox-only video game franchise. But today, the firms announced that Microsoft is purchasing "Gears" from Epic and will release new games in the series, presumably for Xbox One.

Note: Yes, there was one PC-based version of the original Gears of War game. But the other titles were all Xbox exclusives.

"Epic Games has reached an agreement to sell the "Gears of War' intellectual property rights to Microsoft," an Epic statement notes. "We're very proud of the franchise we built in close partnership with Microsoft over the past decade and are happy that this agreement enables Microsoft to forge ahead with the 'Gears' universe on their industry-leading platforms as Epic concentrates its efforts on new projects. Epic remains totally dedicated to supporting Xbox One and is licensing the Unreal Engine 4 technology to Microsoft in support of their future projects."

I reviewed all of the "Gears" games here on the SuperSite and you can find a complete roundup in Gears of War: A Look Back. At the time, it seemed pretty clear that the storyline had run its course, and that by "Gears 3" was "beautiful, but monotonous."

So, what's happening now?

According to a Q&A on Microsoft's Xbox Wire blog, Microsoft has acquired the rights to "Gears of War" from Epic, "including rights to all existing and future games, entertainment experiences and merchandise." A firm called Black Tusk Studios will take over development of coming "Gears of War" titles, while, former Director of Production at Epic Games Rod Fergusson will join Microsoft and oversee this franchise.

Microsoft says that "Gears" has grossed over $1 billion and 22 million in unit sales over the course of three major titles and that the franchise is "part of the soul of Xbox," which is why I believe the new games will be primarily focused on Xbox One. (That said, I could see Windows ports and even Windows Phone-based mini-games.) Epic didn't really explain why it was willing to give up "Gears," and the terms of the deal are undisclosed. But it was pretty clear that the firm wasn't interested in new "Gears" games.

We won't hear about specific plans for new "Gears" games until" later this year." And you know what's later this year? Right, E3. Stay tuned.