While the Xbox 360 is unlikely to yield a success story as strong as Halo 2 for the original Xbox until, well, Halo 3 ships in 2007, this holiday season has given Microsoft its first obvious hit. Gears of War, which was developed by Epic Games and published by Microsoft's in-house games studio, has now sold over 2 million units. That means, for example, that there are at least 5 times as many people playing that game worldwide as there are PlayStation 3 users. No matter how you slice it, Gears of War is a huge success.
"Gears of War clearly has won the battle for the title of the must-have game of the year," says Microsoft corporate vice president Jeff Bell. "Its phenomenal success is one of many reasons why Xbox 360 is the ultimate place to get together with friends to play this holiday."
Gears of War has been a huge hit with gamers, thanks to its best-of-breed graphics, innovative game play, and tight multiplayer features. Indeed, the game is also a darling with reviewers (I awarded the title 5 out of 5 stars in my own review on the SuperSite for Windows). Developers at Epic pledge to support Gears with new content via the Xbox Live online service, a strategy employed last year by Activision with Call of Duty 2, the best-selling previous generation Xbox 360 game.
According to Microsoft, this strategy will likely pay off: Over 1 million people have played Gears online in over 10 million online game play sessions. Gears is so popular, in fact, that paid registrations to Xbox Live--required to play games online--has more than doubled since the game's launch six weeks ago.
Aside from bolstering Gears with new content in the coming year, Epic is expected to a ship Unreal Tournament 2007, a game that will feature the same graphics engine as Gears. And various third party developers will utilize the Gears engine to develop their own titles, as was the case with previous generations of the so-called Unreal Engine.