The Coalition’s Gears of War games haven’t taken the industry by storm the way Epic Games’ original trilogy did, but even so, the Xbox studio’s stewardship of the series has, for the most part, been admirable. Gears of War 4 was a safe yet solid game, and turn-based strategy spinoff Gears Tactics was a great experience in its own right, while Gears 5 cranked things up significantly with its sizeable solo, co-op, and PvP offerings.
Many, however, are wondering what the future holds for the series. In September, it will have been three years since the launch of Gears 5, and some are now beginning to wonder whether it’s almost time for its sequel to be announced. Gears 5 itself arrived within three years of its own predecessor, of course, and both it and Gears of War 4 were announced well over a year before they eventually released. Clearly, there’s been a break in the pattern, raising questions about what’s going on behind the scenes at The Coalition, and what that means for the sixth mainline Gears game.
Even with a break in the pattern though, there’s very little cause for concern- at least based on the fragments of details and information that are publicly known at this point. AAA development is at a point where a project can easily take four to five years to see through to completion, if not more, and pretty much all games that are in development have had that number stretched out even further, due to the pandemic and the hurdles that that’s brought, which not all studios around the world have been able to deal with in the smoothest fashion. Even beyond those potential reasons, however – which, to be honest, can be applied to pretty much every developer in the world – there are still a few other things to consider. Multiple factors are at play here, and connecting all of those dots, it’s easy to understand why Gears 6 might end up taking longer than expected- and why that might have been the plan to begin with.
There’s the fact that this is the first time The Coalition is experiencing a console generation transition since having taken charge of Gears of War. Sure, the studio was technically in charge of the series when we were moving from the Xbox 360 to the Xbox One, but the situation was different back then- at the time, The Coalition was far more focused on establishing its own foundations and basic framework as a new studio, which would have brought its ow complications. Right now, at the tail end of the Xbox One era and in the nascent years of the Xbox Series X/S’ life, the task at hand is a different one for the studio, revolving mainly around engine improvements and technology overhauls.
That, in fact, is one of few things that The Coalition has spoken about in an official capacity over the last couple of years, at least in terms of what exactly is going on behind-the-scenes. In May of last year, it was announced that the studio was going to shift its development pipeline – which, until then, had been using Unreal Engine 4 – over to Unreal Engine 5. That’s not something that happens quickly and suddenly, and sure enough, The Coalition confirmed back then that for the foreseeable future, it would be focused almost entirely on shifting engines and familiarizing itself with the new toolset. “Shifting to a new engine is a big undertaking, so we want to be clear that we will not be announcing any new projects or titles for some time,” the developer said at the time.
Interestingly, reports have claimed that that might not necessarily mean what you might think it does. Rather than completely hunkering down and learning the ins and outs of Unreal Engine 5, the folks at The Coalition are instead choosing to get acclimatized to the engine while on the job. Reports have repeatedly claimed that the studio is working on a second game that’ll release before Gears 6. Allegedly smaller and more experimental in nature, this new game’s development is also going to serve the purpose of getting The Coalition more familiarized with Unreal Engine 5. Meanwhile, several subsequent job ads have also revealed that the developer is indeed working on a new IP.
So while Gears 6 is indeed in the early stages of production, it seems other things are vying for The Coalition’s attention as well. And of course, even before that, the studio’s had plenty on its plate between the launch of Gears 5 and now. Following the shooter’s 2019 launch, the developer obviously spent dedicated much of its time and resources to supporting the game after its release, which also included the development and launch of a full-fledged story-driven solo expansion in Gears 5: Hivebusters in December 2020.
In addition to that, The Coalition has provided some support work to other studios on their own projects as well, from helping 343 Industries with Halo Infinite to working with Epic Games on UE5’s playable tech demo The Matrix Awakens, and even on the development of the engine itself. Clearly, then, the Gears of War developer has had its hands full for a while, and will continue to for some time to come.
Where exactly does that leave us though? Well, in a nutshell, it’s easy to understand why Gears 6 hasn’t yet been announced- and honestly, probably won’t be for some time. Clearly, that smaller new IP is the project that The Coalition is prioritizing right now, so that by the time it fully shifts focus to Gears 6, it’ll be much more familiar with Unreal Engine 5 and much better equipped to use the engine in the best manner possible. That project itself hasn’t even been officially announced yet, which means there’s a good chance that the next Gears of War game doesn’t get announced for at least another year or so, if note more. That means that there likely isn’t going to be a new game in the series for about a couple years or so- which might be the best case scenario.
The Coalition does have big ambitions for the series’ future though, so it’s understandable that the developer wants to take the time to ensure that it can bring that vision to life in the best manner possible. Multiplayer and co-op improvements will obviously have to be made – that’s the lifeblood of the franchise, after all – but the Gears developers have also made it clear that a lot of the new elements they experimented with in Gears 5 – from the semi-open world design and story choices to stealth mechanics and the progression system – would continue to be built and expanded upon in the future.
If those are indeed the sort of improvements that the future has in store for Gears of War, and if The Coalition is choosing to take the time to prepare itself to be in the best possible position to work toward that future, we have absolutely no problems with waiting a little longer for the next game in the series. Of course, no one can tell what exactly is going on behind the scenes except The Coalition, and for all we know, things might not be nearly as rosy as the picture we’re painting here- but if The Coalition can successfully lay down a solid production framework that it could later leverage for future projects, Gears 6 might end up being another huge step forward for the franchise. If that calls for some patience, then so be it.
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