With the sheer number of development houses closing down as of late the shock and awe that once surrounded a studio’s closing has all but disappeared. That is until Microsoft dropped the bomb concerning the closing of the legendary development house Ensemble Studios. Ensemble has been around since 1996 and is responsible for the Age of Empires franchise that since the release of the first game in in 1997, has sold more than 20 million units worldwide. More recently, Ensemble has been receiving much buzz surrounding their work on the translation of the mega-hit Halo franchise into an RTS.
Microsoft has been less than forthcoming with the details surrounding the game, only willing to part with a handful of trailers, gameplay footage, and screens’ leading some to believe that development on Halo Wars is going less than stellar. Although Microsoft alleviated many of those fears by assuring us that the closing had nothing to do with the quality, or overall development of the game, “This decision does not reflect at all on Ensemble’s talent or the quality of Halo Wars–in fact, many people who have had a chance to test drive Halo Wars agree that it is on track to being a fantastic game.”
In fact Microsoft said that the reason for the closer was simply a fiscal decision concerning the growth of their Microsoft Games Studio (MGS) brand, “This was a fiscally rooted decision that keeps MGS on its growth path. While the decision to dissolve Ensemble was not an easy one, Microsoft is working to place as many Ensemble employees who do not move to the newly formed studio into open positions within Microsoft as possible.”
While much of the staff at Ensemble was let go, the team behind the development of Halo Wars will be staying on until development of the game wraps up. At that time the “top brass” will form a new yet to be named studio which has signed an agreement that will see them supporting Halo Wars post-launch, along with working with MGS on other projects.
Good luck to all at Ensemble from us at TVGB, your games have brought many of us countless hours of fun, and your contribution to the industry will forever be remembered.