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.