Ensemble Studios to close

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In a bit of shocking news, Ensemble Studios, the developers behind the Age of Empires games, is set to close following the completion of their current strategy game project, Halo Wars. Key employees from the studio are to remain and form a new studio that will provide future support for Halo Wars, as well as work on other Microsoft Game Studios (MGS) projects. From a press-release:

Ensemble Studios“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.”

Ensemble Studios was founded in 1995, releasing their first game, Age of Empires, in 1997. Microsoft then acquired Ensemble in 2001, folding them into MGS, after which Ensemble released Age of Mythology in 2002. Age of Empires III, their latest game released in 2005, sold over 1.15 million copies in the US alone, not including the two successive expansion packs.

Not only that, but Ensemble had become something of a haven for ex-id Software developers, with Sandy Petersen, Paul Jaquays and Graeme Devine all moving on to work at the Dallas-based Ensemble. This is quite a blow to the industry – Ensemble were instrumental in pushing the real-time strategy genre forward, with the upcoming Halo Wars set to innovate console RTS games even further. Let’s hope the employees all land on their feet.

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