Microsoft have confirmed the reports that surfaced about Ensemble Studios closing down after the completion of Halo Wars on Xbox 360. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel as the key people from the "the Emsemble leadership team" will start up a new studio under Microsoft's wings. It sounds weird... why shut down a studio and start another one with the same key people? A smaller studio, somewhere else perhaps?
The official word:
"Microsoft has decided to close Ensemble Studios following the completion of Halo Wars. After the closure, the Ensemble leadership team will form a new studio and has agreed to provide ongoing support for Halo Wars as well as work on other projects with Microsoft Game Studios.
The team at Ensemble has made invaluable contributions to the games industry with their Age of Empires and Age of Mythology games and with the highly anticipated release of Halo Wars. This decision does not reflect at all on Ensembles talent or the quality of Halo Wars. 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.
This was a fiscally-rooted decision that keeps MGS on its growth path. While the decision to dissolve Ensemble was not an easy one, Microsoft is working to place as many Ensemble employees who do not move to the newly formed studio into open positions within Microsoft as possible.
As to our overall strategy at MGS, it remains the same. We are committed to growing MGS with world-class talent both internally and with our external partners around the globe. We have recently added some well-known developers to our team and will continue growing the team. Were particularly excited about the titles we have in the pipeline and continue to evaluate additional opportunities to bring incredible games to life with the industrys best. Our investment in games has never been greater than it is today. "
A sad day for fans of the Age of Empires series, because I cannot see this news as anything but confirmation that the series is not a part of Microsoft's future strategies. Perhaps they will sell the rights off to someone like they did with Dungeon Siege.