A job offering over on LinkedIn (opens in new tab) seems to suggest that Microsoft is looking for talent to work on a new Age of Empires title. The company hasn't officially announced the development, but the portion of the job listing stating that it's a "well-loved strategy game franchise" has the rumor wheels turning. We haven't seen an Age of Empires title on the PC since the third installment and its two expansion packs.
"Microsoft Studios is looking for a highly experienced senior games developer to help build and lead the team for a new AAA title within an established and well-loved strategy game franchise," reads the job description. "This role reports directly to the Director of Development / Head of Studio. Your primary responsibilities will be to recruit and lead the client-side engineering team, drive technical strategy for client development, manage the day-to-day engineering rhythm, and evaluate and recommend appropriate middleware and tools to accomplish our goals."
Microsoft is looking for someone with eight years of AAA game development experience, and at least 5 years in a "leadership capacity." Candidates must also have "a Bachelor's Degree or higher in Computer Science, Mathematics, Physics or related field," and "experience in modern development techniques." Candidates must also have strong C++ development skills, exposure to C# and scripting language.
The very first Age of Empires was developed by Ensemble Studios and published by Microsoft in October 1997. The second installment was published in September 1999, and the third in October 2005. Microsoft acquired Ensemble Studios in 2001, for which the studio became a subsidiary until its closing in 2009. During its time, Ensemble also produced several spinoffs such as Age of Mythology.
Note that Age of Empires Online launched in August 2011, a free-to-play MMORTS first developed by Robot Entertainment and later by Gas Powered Games. However, as of January 2013, Microsoft had ceased creating new content for the struggling game, and then said in September 2013 that the game will be shut down in July 2014.
Right now news of a new Age of Empires is all rumor and speculation until Microsoft confirms development. Still, would you welcome a fourth installment?