Confirmed: Microsoft closing Ensemble

Publisher affirms rumors that it will dissolve Halo Wars dev upon game's completion; leadership team to form new studio that will "work on other projects with Microsoft Game Studios."


Confirmation has come fast in regard to rumors surfacing earlier today that Microsoft would be closing its internal developer Ensemble Studios upon the completion of sci-fi real-time strategy game Halo Wars. In a statement issued today, Microsoft confirmed that Ensemble will be shut down once the Xbox 360-exclusive RTS set in the best-selling Halo franchise ships out early next year.

"The team at Ensemble has made invaluable contributions to the games industry with their Age of Empires and Age of Mythology games and with the highly anticipated release of Halo Wars," the publisher said in a statement. "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."

Though Microsoft will close the studio, Ensemble has plans to soldier on. As part of today's statement, Microsoft said that Ensemble's "leadership team" will form a new, independent development house and has already entered into an agreement with the publisher to continue supporting Halo Wars post-launch, "as well as work on other projects with Microsoft Game Studios."

Commenting on the reason for the closure, Microsoft said, "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."

As noted earlier today, the Age of Empires brand has sold more than 20 million units since the first installment debuted on the PC in 1997. According to the NPD Group, Age of Empires III for the PC has sold 1.15 million units in the US alone through July 2008, with The Warchiefs expansion tallying nearly 305,000 more. (The second expansion, Asian Dynasties, was developed by Rise of Nations creators Big Huge Games.)

Ensemble has been a Microsoft-owned studio since 2001.

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Avatar image for Phantom_2

u got to be kidding me.

Avatar image for enix165

Aw, that sucks, I never got to play AoE but Star Wars:Galactic Battlegrounds(it runs on one of the AoE engines, not sure which one) was one of my fave RTSes...and SoilWorker1234, maybe Blizzard would be if they didn't ruin Warcraft with that piece-of-crap MMO.

Avatar image for Atrosis

how are they going to patch and update the game then???

Avatar image for sponny1

DAMN IT!!! How can this be happening! If it wasnt for these guys and their game "Age of Empires" I wouldnt have gotten into gaming! and I was bigger fan after playing "Age of Kings" and "Age of Mythology" ! These guys are total legends! I cant bealive there closing down. I remembered when Cavedog(Also another awesome developer) close down...those guy made Total Annihilation(Also another awesome game) and they close a few years later! and the same goes to Westwood Studios!...seriously why do all the good gaming developers close down!...I AM SO MAKING A VIDEO TRIBUTE OF ENSEMBLE STUDIOS AFTER THEY CLOSE DOWN!!!

Avatar image for Haloking277

I preorderd the limited edition, can't wait to play it on my 72 inch and 360 elite.

Avatar image for OmegaCookie7

Awww. Silly Microsoft :(

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Avatar image for world69star69

Maybe instead of paying rockstar and squaresoft millions of dollars for dlc and a release on their systme, they should be strengthening their 1st party, nah that would make too much sense, they don't want to be like sony or nintendo and have a strong 1st party dev base.

Avatar image for world69star69

they should of stayed independent, too bad no one knew back then that ms was going to be abandoning the pc in favor of a crappy fragile 2nd rate console.

Avatar image for world69star69

Micro$haft are greedy whores, who only made the xbox because they don't get money from pc games. Why do you think they have been taking their previous successful pc devs and making them make subpar xbox games? It really pisses me off because Ensemble is/was a great developer and now m$ has killed them off, just to save a buck or too, I have a fealling this is how they plan to pay for lowering the 360 price by killing their 1st party devs. I really wanted a new age of empires, and now we will never get it, AOE3 was fantastic, i was hoping for a 1800's AOE or ww1/ww2 ERA AOE, but no such luck...How can they make a maker of fine historical rts games go to make cheesy 2nd rate halo rts... its really a downfall casused by ms then they pull the plug.. MS doesn't want people playing on pc, they want all gamer on the 3fixme as they get $10 per game sold on it. Greedy bastards! what they don't realize is that they have almost 0 1st party devs, while Sony and Nintendo having been investing in their 1st and 2nd party devs. As more and more 3rd parties turn multiplat, MS will not have the exclusives, and will be forced to buy these timed exclusives which will cost more and more as ps3 install base grows....I really hat m$ more everyday. They have been putting their noses into too many things, and look what happened from spreading devs too thin--- Windows Vista, the 9 billion dollar failure of an os that uses too much memory and crashes in games...if it wasn't for crapbox, vista would be much better and companies like ensemble would be making age of empires 4 for pc.

Avatar image for DecadesOfGaming

Interesting.. This will mean that an unopened copy of 'HALO WARS' (with the official Xbox Authenticity sticker and original Microsoft cellophane wrapping) should be worth quite a lot of cash in the year 2552 !!

Avatar image for Keasar

Big money has no soul...

Avatar image for Trooperdx3117

Is it just me but does it not make sense to tell Ensemble studios that they're closing down after Halo wars finish. If they're going to get fired after the game is finished then that means they wont have much of an incentive to nake the game as best as they possibly can

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Avatar image for shemrom

Sad days indeed, at lease they got to make Halo wars for there last game, hope the best for there teams

Avatar image for KillerDooz

OMG Noooooooo, Age of Empires 2(and so these guys) is what got me into gaming. This is a sad moment in game history

Avatar image for Desert_Punk2007

Im pleases, AOE III was not very good. Star Craft is not much better then AOE III either.

Avatar image for WallyGamer

that sucks majorly. I loved those guys.

Avatar image for ElmoKajaky

Dumbest. Move. Ever.

Avatar image for paul_lee8

NOOOO AOM was like the first game that REALLY got me into RTS games and now Ensemble is getting shut down!!!!!! Aw heck All I care about is Halo Wars. But I'm still going to follow that new group all the way!

Avatar image for sunnystarz

that's the way to give them rewards after they complete a much hype game like halo wars.. .fires them!!!

Avatar image for halofanatic333

what the heck! AoE!!!!!!!!!!

Avatar image for MorganCline5

Alright...I love RTS games. I've played all the AOE, AOMythology even, all the C&C, and Blizzard's games (Starcraft and WoW, rts only). They are all very very fun and worth every second I play them, personally. I hate to see Ensemble go. It's Ensemble that got me into playing any RTS games. As for Microsoft trying to help the growth of MGS, that's bull$h!t. As "Sethorgana" talks about eliminating internal competition, didn't Microsoft do something like this with Bungie too? I'll still get whatever the new Ensemble group will make for sure.

Avatar image for Rattlesnake_8

Another fantastic developer disapears. Im very see them go. I've been a huge fan of the AoE series since the original. Like Westwood, they will be deeply missed.. especially if future AOE games end up being how EA has done the C&C games. :(

Avatar image for Soilworker1234

Age of Empires blows dude, the only company worth making an RTS is blizzard, who by the way kick ass

Avatar image for AllyoftheForce

It's sad to see Ensemble go. Not much we can do but complain guys. I think it is a bad move on Microsofts part, but we will see how deep the hole goes and if they can pull themselves out. Hopefully they don't mess this up too bad.

Avatar image for Agreb91

Wow. I can't believe this.

Avatar image for sethorgana

To keep Microsoft Gaming Studios on it's growth path. So that's what corporations call eliminating internal competition these days.

Avatar image for ctg867

I just love how in the last 5-10 years, half of the studios Microsoft has owned or worked with on first party games have left, been disbanded, or bought by other studios. What the hell has happened to their first party?

Avatar image for agni_1

@ Gifted one...good for you, now go play your game and allow the rest of us to mourn in peace. Jeez fanboys like you make me hate certain games.

Avatar image for Gifted_One

Im sorry but I keep hearing about AoE being brought up as one of the best RTS games they have played. To those who are living in the clouds. Ever played Starcraft? If not, do so. $19.99 gets you the whole game. Expansion set and all. And when Starcraft 2 comes out for PC. Make sure to play that. And you will then realize that it will probably and hopefully be one of the best RTS's known to mankind. Starcraft > Age Empires I,II,III combined. I'll learns you though. lol

Avatar image for Zerabp

Actually since Ensemble was always owned by MS, all their ips are owned by Ms in the first place. So that's not the problem, the problem is if Microsoft goes to people who aren't familiar with them instead of giving it to the new studio they are forming.

Avatar image for highlandermod

The worst thing about this is the franchise problem. as you see, Microsoft closed Ensemble Studio, so all the franchise of this company are now in trouble now. Microsoft still own the AOE license, and the new formed dev. team will have to buy it again.. if they want it. So lets wait a little 3-5 years before the AOE 4 from the new Ensemble studio!

Avatar image for Ultramarinus

Shame on MS, even if AoE 3 wasn't nearly as good as AoE 2, they still had enough commerical success. If they're closing down one of the most successful studios which was publishing for one of the most popular genres of PC gaming, it appears that they'll be closing anything they can get a hands on ultimately. Contrary to what some people believe, Ensemble team will effectively be dissolving as its members are scattering in and out of MS so their franchises will never ever be the same. Worst news since Westwood shut down for RTS gamers, thankfully Bungie could save itself.

Avatar image for MSG-Deathscythe

instead of investing money on their internal studios, ms would rather put money on stupid stuff like hiring jerry seinfeld for gazillions of dollars to make commercials that "will improve their company's image." after seeing the first commercial, i say it was money well flushed in the toilet.

Avatar image for TheYokai

That sucks. Perhaps there were logical reasons for doing so, but ES has been going strong for over ten years now, and made just about the best RTS games out there. It's quite a letdown that Microsoft is closing them down after all their success.

Avatar image for Killer2401

At least Halo Wars will still come out. Don't expect any DLC though....the rest of the team will go to other publishers.

Avatar image for flammable_zeus

Man, you can just tell from all of these comments that many people didn't read the article before posting. I think this is a good thing. The same team will be around, but they will be starting a new, INDEPENDENT development house. So more people will be able to play the games they make, they'll just have a different name.

Avatar image for Richmaester6907

Good riddense to awful games developers AoE was an awful game series stronghold 1 was more impressive

Avatar image for defjam33

don't udnerstand why they closed it just to remake it another studio under a diff name...that's stupid

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Avatar image for Saheb117

now what will happen of AOE ?

Avatar image for k079

Wonder why MS is suddenly losing its internal game studios... Maybe its because Microsoft has been tossing lots of money at oversea 3rd party developers like Square and Tecmo. So internal divisions may be feeling that they are not compensated enough and decide to go elsewhere.

Avatar image for mankeyador

I'm heartbroken about this news. Ensemble studios was the very reason I got into strategy games. I remember playing the original ages of empires thinking I'm leading a civilization this is awesome. why is microsoft abandoning their internal game studios? I just hope they know what their doing. maybe they only want to be a publisher and not a developer because they seem to have the best relationship with third-party. I mean they are making a mass effect trilogy. and even after they let bungie go they're still making games for microsoft. maybe that's their new strategy being a super publisher.

Avatar image for Hvac0120

[quote="Microsoft"]"This was a fiscally rooted decision that keeps MGS on its growth path."[/quote] MGS is not on a growing path. How many developers does Microsoft even have left any more? Rare and....??? I believe Microsoft is cutting down on internal development and focusing on spending that money on exclusive DLC and exclusive release schedules for 3rd party games. Getting rid of internal development studios is a good way for them to get the extra cash needed to keep the exclusives coming.

Avatar image for thk123

@kbaily While I agree that letting big companies like these go is madness, Viva Pinata was a huge economic success for the 360.

Avatar image for thk123

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