Note: The Skinny blog is written by Rick Smith, editor and co-founder of WRAL Tech Wire and business editor of

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – “Gears of War 3” is a smash hit, propelling the videogame franchise past $1 billion in sales for Epic Games.

Microsoft, the publisher of the Gears franchise for Cary-based Epic, said Thursday morning that Gears is the first game developed only for the Xbox 360 franchise to top the $1 billion mark. Many games are published across multiple platforms so they can be played on Playstation, personal computers and others.

The third installment of the franchise topped 3 million copies in sales in its first week of release, Microsoft added. (Read WRAL Tech Wire’s review here.)

And the companies are giddy.

“We are thrilled with Gears of War 3’s massively successful launch,” said Epic spokesperson Dana Cowley. But she made sure to pay tribute to Gears’ millions of players around the world. “We are grateful to our loyal fans for supporting the game,” she added.

In the announcement, the two firms proclaimed:

“Following more than 22,000 midnight madness launch events, Microsoft and Epic Games today announced that the Xbox 360 exclusive sold more than three million copies in its first week since release, cementing Gears 3 as the biggest game of 2011 and catapulting the franchise beyond one billion dollars in lifetime sales.”

They weren’t done with the congratulations, either.

“Gears of War was the first killer app for Xbox 360, and the series has continued to contribute directly to the overall success of the platform ever since,” said Phil Spencer, Microsoft’s corporate vice president.

At the rate Gears 3 is selling, it could top 8 million copies sold, according to the videogame website VGChartz. If so, Gears 3 would surpass Gears 1 and 2, which have sold a combined 13 million copies.

“The franchise typically sees around 6-6.5 million units lifetime, but Gears 3 is set to buck the trend and should surpass 8 million units,” Seb Parker wrote earlier this week.

Gears 3 is already the blockbuster of the year for the videogame industry. Without a doubt, Gears is a blockbuster for Microsoft, too.

As for Epic, well, there probably will be some new sports cars in the company parking lot that already has more than a few collector’s items.

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