The countdown has begun: after a few weeks of teased and leaked information, Epic Games has confirmed that its popular Gears of War series on Xbox 360 will conclude with a third game due for release in April 2011.

The company's Designer Director, Cliff Bleszinski, was initially due to appear on comedian Jimmy Fallon's late night TV show on Friday, April 9, but a scheduling conflict meant that the slot was moved to the following Monday instead.

Despite that, a promotional graphic for the long-awaited third game was seen briefly by some Xbox 360 users on the morning of Friday, April 9, presumably timed to co-incide with Cliff's television appearance, reinforcing suspicions that the game was indeed due out in April 2011.

During the Jimmy Fallon spot, Cliff was asked if there was an exact date for the game's release, to which he responded that it was "probably" going to launch on April 8.

Despite the long lead time, Epic and Microsoft are starting their marketing push in earnest, as Xbox 360 users will be able to purchase Gears of War 3-related items for their online avatars from April 20, 2010.

A Gears of War 3 trailer was also released which showed part of the storyline. Musclebound and heroic future solider Marcus Fenix rescues a fallen comrade from certain death, as members of his Delta Squad - male and female both - grit their teeth and face off a humanoid and insect-like horde in a ruined ashen city.

Intriguingly, though he was speaking on a US show, April 8 is a Friday, and more likely to be a European release date. The North American video game market usually sees new releases come out on a Tuesday.

Epic Games later detailed a specific North American and Asian release date of April 5 and a Japanese date of April 7. The company, whose big break came with the creation of the Unreal game engine, and for whom the hugely successful Gears series represented their first non-Unreal titled foray into video gaming, also announced the opening of their Japanese office for Thursday, April 15.

Related link: Gears of War 3 trailer at