Microsoft Slaps PC Gamers, Decides to Close Ensemble Studios

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.

Marcus Yam
Marcus Yam served as Tom's Hardware News Director during 2008-2014. He entered tech media in the late 90s and fondly remembers the days when an overclocked Celeron 300A and Voodoo2 SLI comprised a gaming rig with the ultimate street cred.
  • warezme
    what happened to developing for Vista, the gamers OS?????
  • zerapio
    A sad day indeed :(
  • 3Ball
    This is starting to get ridiculous.
  • rocky1234
    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.
  • dechy
    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
  • dimaf1985
    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.
  • ram1009
    OK, it's time for all you pirates out there to start blaming everybody and everything but yourselves.
  • warezme
    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.
  • eklipz330
    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
  • NuclearShadow
    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.