Microsoft comments on Ensemble deal

GameSpot talks with Stuart Moulder, Microsoft's newly appointed PC games general manager, about the company's commitment to the PC as a gaming platform.

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Microsoft dropped by the GameSpot offices this afternoon to discuss the recently announced acquisition of Ensemble Studios and talk about the company's commitment to the PC as a gaming platform. According to Stuart Moulder, the recently appointed general manager of Microsoft's PC games division, the acquisition of Ensemble is an indication of Microsoft's long-term commitment to PC games. Although the company is focusing a lot of effort on the upcoming launch of its Xbox console game system, it sees the PC game market as a valuable part of its operations. In addition, the company sees the current market conditions as an opportunity for Microsoft to take the lead in the PC game market, especially while other publishers are focusing more and more on publishing games for next-generation consoles.

To reinforce the message, Moulder went through Microsoft's list of upcoming PC games: Train Simulator, scheduled for release at the end of June; MechCommander 2, scheduled for release at the end of July; Flight Simulator, Dungeon Siege, and Zoo Tycoon, all scheduled for release this fall; Age of Mythology and Sigma, scheduled for spring 2002; and Freelancer, which is scheduled for mid-2002.

Moulder also briefly explained the relationship between Age of Mythology and the Age of Empires series. While the Age of Empires series is historical in nature, Age of Mythology will be focused more on mythology, as the name implies. The game mechanics and style will be familiar to those who have played the Age of Empires series, but the game is not considered the next installment in the Age of Empires line. Moulder noted that we can expect to see Age of Empires III sometime in the future, but that Ensemble is focused completely on Age of Mythology at this time.

Microsoft will also be taking advantage of the PC's unique ability to access small additions and enhancements over the Internet. In addition to the more costly retail expansion packs, the company plans to provide more frequent online updates and additions to its games. Depending on the size and nature of the additions, players will either download them for free or pay a small fee for some of the larger add-ons. Moulder believes that this online distribution model will benefit consumers by passing on savings due to lower production and distribution costs and providing them with more frequent additions to their games. Microsoft will continue to release occasional packaged expansion packs that will serve as compilations of game enhancements.

We'll have full coverage of new Microsoft games from the show floor at the upcoming E3.

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