Epic Games has acquired a majority interest in Warsaw, Poland-based game developer People Can Fly.

Best known for its bestselling Painkiller franchise, People Can Fly most recently has collaborated with Epic Games on the PC version of Gears of War, which Microsoft will publish this fall.

"They came to us looking to license the Unreal Engine 3 and we respected what they had done with the Painkiller games," said Mark Rein, vice president, Epic Games, from Germany, where he is attending the Leipzig Games Convention. "Having never used the technology before, they spent about a month over Christmas working on it and we were blown away by what they’d done with prototypes."

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

People Can Fly has a strong background in shooters, which is Epic’s strength with Unreal Tournament and Gears of War. In addition to the PC Painkiller game, which is routinely used in professional videogame tournaments, People Can Fly also developed Painkiller: Hell Wars for Xbox. These games sold well in multiple territories, something Epic’s games have done as well.

Rein said that since the Warsaw developer was in between projects, Epic asked them to do some maps and work for the PC Gears of War game.

"What they did was up to our Epic quality standard of games," said Rein. "They were working on this great idea for a new videogame and we decided to invest in them and pool our talent resources."

That new game is currently being shown behind closed doors to game publishers in Germany this week.

“Working with this team of guys who love making over-the-top shooters was a blast, and we didn’t want it to end,” said Michael Capps, President of Epic Games. “And their work was outstanding. The multiplayer levels they created for Gears PC look as good or better than the original. How could we not jump at the opportunity to work together on a long-term basis?”

“To be able to work with the best technology company in the business and collaborate on making amazing fantastic games is an offer you just can’t refuse. Making games is hard work but it is also great fun," said Adrian Chmielarz, creative director and co-owner of People Can Fly. "Working with Epic reduces the stress of being an independent developer and lets us focus even more on fun side of the business.”

Rein said Epic sees itself as an international company and there’s no set plan in expanding to certain countries or acquiring game developers in different regions.

"Videogames are a global business," said Rein. "We don’t have a particular expansion plan. If you look at us historically, we’ve been in Toronto and Maryland and now Raleigh. With People Can Fly, it was the right situation for both companies. If you look at Digital Extremes and Psion, those were other examples of the situation being right. Things tend to fall into place."

Digital Extremes split from Epic when the latter company moved to Raleigh from Waterloo, Ontario. Psion was created by Epic as an independent developer but later merged into the company for Gears of War.

The new intellectual property that Epic now owns with People Can Fly gives the company another franchise to build around. Epic has licensed its Gears of War game to New Line Cinema for a big screen adaptation.

Gears of War has sold over 4 million units on Xbox 360 for Microsoft. The new Unreal Tournament 3 game, which Midway is publishing, has more of a story focus than past games in the franchise, which also opens it up for non-gaming opportunities.