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Microsoft Slaps PC Gamers, Decides to Close Ensemble Studios

By - Source: Tom's Hardware | B 22 comments

In the realm of PC gaming, there have been few developers with as solid a track record as Ensemble Studios. It’s a sad day for PC gamers then, as Microsoft has confirmed reports that it intends to shut down the developer as soon as its work on Halo Wars is complete.

Despite its legacy of producing some of the very finest strategy games with its Age of Empire and Age of Mythology series, Microsoft decided that it would be financially disadvantageous to continue to operate the wholly-owned Ensemble Studios.

“Microsoft has decided to close Ensemble Studios following the completion of Halo Wars,” the company said in a statement. “This was a fiscally-rooted decision that keeps [Microsoft Games Studios] on its growth path.”

The leadership at Ensemble Studios already have planned to form a new development studio following the closure, but will also continue to support Halo Wars and other Microsoft projects. Microsoft expressed that it still believes in the talent at Ensemble, and said that it “is working to place as many Ensemble employees who do not move to the newly formed studio into open positions within Microsoft as possible.”

Up until Halo Wars, Ensemble Studios’ focus has clearly been on the core PC gamer. It is rather disappointing for the PC crowd, then, that Microsoft not only shut down the developer, but also that its last project be one that may never grace a keyboard and mouse.

As expected, the development team is suffering a blow to its motivation in continuing work on Halo Wars; but according to reports, Microsoft is offering special incentives for employees who choose to see the completion of the project.

“This decision does not reflect at all on Ensembles talent or the quality of Halo Wars,” said Microsoft. “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.”

Halo Wars is expect to ship only on the Xbox 360 sometime during the first half of 2009.

Ensemble Studios was founded in 1995, later acquired by Microsoft in 2001.

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  • 1 Hide
    warezme , September 10, 2008 5:52 PM
    what happened to developing for Vista, the gamers OS?????
  • 1 Hide
    zerapio , September 10, 2008 5:53 PM
    A sad day indeed :( 
  • 0 Hide
    3Ball , September 10, 2008 6:18 PM
    This is starting to get ridiculous.
  • Display all 22 comments.
  • 4 Hide
    rocky1234 , September 10, 2008 6:40 PM
    This is just another tactic to try to force PC gamers into buying their 360 console since we all know this is truly what Microsoft cares about that & digital media downloads. We are seeing a steady decline in PC game development & it will get worse over time. What we are seeing is these half baked console to PC ports which only work well some of the time. I own a 360 & a PS3 & a very high end Gaming PC & I have not turned on either of my consoles since last Christmas because the games on them are starting to feel dated as far as graphics go the PC developed games by far blow most anything that is on the consoles its just to bad there are so many people pirating the games which upsets the developers to the point that they snub us & go for the consoles instead.
  • 1 Hide
    dechy , September 10, 2008 6:45 PM
    Piracy is getting rediculous too. Vicious circle really, piracy ramps up, game prices go up, piracy ramps higher because of high game prices, companies see shitty revenues, close shop to PC gamers and continue over on the consoles.

    Only type of games that will be left on the PC are online server-based games where legit subscription is 100% needed, the rest will die.

    The PC community killed themselves; when my grand parents themselves download pirated software, you know something is awfully wrong.

    The money for games is now with the big 3; PS3/360/Wii
  • -1 Hide
    dimaf1985 , September 10, 2008 6:59 PM
    microcrap hard at work to please the pc gamer crowd. i hope they enjoy more people downloading their products for free as backlash for this.

    as for halo wars, i hope it turns into a buggy and uncreative failure.
  • 1 Hide
    ram1009 , September 10, 2008 7:46 PM
    OK, it's time for all you pirates out there to start blaming everybody and everything but yourselves.
  • 0 Hide
    warezme , September 10, 2008 7:56 PM
    Let the video card companies and gaming hardware manufacture sponsor the game developers. That includes Intel with their upcoming Larrabee as they stand to lose the most from a dead game development community for the PC. Kinda like Indy car teams.
  • -1 Hide
    eklipz330 , September 10, 2008 8:56 PM
    i doubt i've ever played an ensemble studios game, and halo is overrated, and i was one of those in that huge snowball of hype for halo 3... it wasn't that great, and it being ported over for the pc will be kinda wasted, unless of course it was cross-platform... o well, if this keeps going, this will give me less incentive for buying vista, or upgrading my hardware for that matter
  • 0 Hide
    NuclearShadow , September 10, 2008 9:18 PM
    I don't even see piracy mentioned anywhere in the article so to those before me mentioning piracy why are you even bringing it up?

    I bet we're not getting the full story here. Something tells me Ensemble is going away because Microsoft probably wasn't pleased with Halo Wars in its current state. Perhaps they treated it like a PC game and didn't dumb it down for the 360. Now they are hoping that either they can *fix* it and keep the staff from quitting out of anger with a bribe or hoping it simply sells because of the name and making sure it doesn't happen again.

    Think about it sure you would be depressed about Ensemble shutting down if you worked there but there's no way in hell would anyone want to leave a big name title like that simply because of that. Its clear that Microsoft is/was doing something that the staff didn't approve of to the point of considering quitting. So what does Microsoft do? Shut them down and shuffle them into other development teams after the game is finished. It's much easier to replace a single upset talented staff member than it is a whole talented team of them at once while on a project.

    To claim it's a financial matter is a joke as every single one of their games have sold well... heck "well" is being modest. It's a damn shame and I hope a bunch of them band together and once again become a independent developer.
  • -1 Hide
    nukemaster , September 10, 2008 9:44 PM
    If people think it is piracy, they would be wrong. I know more people whp pirate console games(PS2 was a big one) then PC. Most consoles are easy to pirate on.
  • 2 Hide
    scurvywombat , September 10, 2008 9:55 PM
    Well that sucks, I really liked AOE2.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , September 10, 2008 10:20 PM
    Microsoft destroyed ensemble!
    they did great games till Microsoft bought them, same case as Westwood and EA.
  • 0 Hide
    ram1009 , September 10, 2008 10:45 PM
    Yup, right on que. It's piracy folks. You may as well get used to it. Companies like Microsoft don't walk if there's a buck to be made. Look at all the crap the publishers of SPORE are getting just for trying to protect their livelyhood. It's no wonder nobody wants to write a PC game. I wouldn't either. Unfortunately there are "pirates" in all facets of life. They're always the ones who think the rules don't apply to them.
  • 2 Hide
    captaincharisma , September 11, 2008 1:45 AM
    tell me about it the PC game industry is going the way of the music industry these days where piracy is concerned.
  • 0 Hide
    amonymous , September 11, 2008 1:50 AM
    Civ is better than AoE imo so I don't care too much.
  • -1 Hide
    megamanx00 , September 11, 2008 4:03 AM
    Microsoft killed that studio on it's own. PC piracy doesn't make the situation any better though. Then again neither does copy protection now adays. Heck when I found out about the protection on Alone in the Dark I wouldn't have gotten it separately, but it did come with my Asus card.
  • 1 Hide
    jimmysmitty , September 11, 2008 5:56 AM
    ram1009Yup, right on que. It's piracy folks. You may as well get used to it. Companies like Microsoft don't walk if there's a buck to be made. Look at all the crap the publishers of SPORE are getting just for trying to protect their livelyhood. It's no wonder nobody wants to write a PC game. I wouldn't either. Unfortunately there are "pirates" in all facets of life. They're always the ones who think the rules don't apply to them.

    If they were smart then they would use a distribution system like Steam to tie their games to instead of the normal way. A server with all the valid codes and tie it to your username for life is the best way to do it. Thats probably why Steam and VALVe see less piracy than most other game developers and don't need to focus as much on consoles.

    mi9crocrapMicrosoft destroyed ensemble!they did great games till Microsoft bought them, same case as Westwood and EA.

    Actually I think they did great even when M$ owned them. They had great games still.

    As to why M$ is closing it, I am not sure.
  • 0 Hide
    Fire_Zealot , September 11, 2008 7:02 AM
    I just dont see the logic in this... Ensemble was one of their premier developers. Maybe not the best selling ones, but one of the critic's favorites...

    Plus announcing this with Halo Wars in development is stupid. No shit the motivation will go down!
  • 0 Hide
    Mr_Man , September 11, 2008 4:24 PM
    Man, not another one! Seriously, Nvidia, ATI, Dell, and all the other companies with a financial interest in PC gaming need to quickly figure out how to all but eliminate piracy while not hurting those who don't pirate in any way.
    My idea: make a DVD drive type just for games that employs all the copy-protection needed. If people can fork out over $100 for a graphics card, a $25 or $30 DVD drive isn't too much to ask, especially if it's a one-time buy and can be used for some time to come (not to mention saves the PC gaming industry).
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