Halo Wars Devs Shocked By Shutdown

Halo Wars Devs Shocked By Shutdown

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Announced earlier this month, Microsoft's plans to close down Ensemble Studio following completion of the upcoming Halo Wars was both a shock and a disappointment, according to studio boss Bruce Shelley.

"I believe we thought we were immune to shut-down talk because our published games have done so well and have been so profitable. Plus we felt we had built a really stable (low-turnover), talented, hard-working, and creative team, which is not easy to do," said Shelley in a lengthy response posted on the Ensemble blog Monday. "We thought we were among the best studios in the world, and that may be true, but we don't fit in the future plans of MGS as an internal studio so we're out."

After confirming plans for the upcoming closure of the studio in an official statement several weeks ago, Microsoft indicated the decision didn't bear any reflection on Ensemble's talent, and the game is still on track to be a quality work. "This was a fiscally-rooted decision that keeps (Microsoft Game Studios) on its growth path," Microsoft officials noted in the statement. "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."

It appears Ensemble cost more to run on a per person basis than other first party studios, said Shelley, and Microsoft is seeking to free up some of the ongoing expense for other upcoming projects. Additionally, the company anticipates projects the development team would have worked on following completion of Halo Wars would turn less profit than projects by its other studios. Though progress on Halo Wars continues, Ensemble employees are exploring relocation, finding new work, and other opportunities, said Shelley. He reports a new independent studio is being planned by Ensemble head Tony Goodman and others at ES have been offered positions in the company.

Halo Wars lead designer Dave Pottinger said they've done all they can to retain Ensemble's staff through the end of the development cycle on the title. There have been no layoffs, he said in a news post on the game's website, and full-time employees will still have jobs elsewhere in the company after the game is completed. "Our goal is to keep everyone here until the game is done," he said.

Known primarily for its work on the Age of Empires series, Ensemble was acquired by Microsoft in 2001 and is slowly nearing completion of Halo Wars - a real-time strategy variant of the popular franchise. The game is currently slated for release in early 2009 for Xbox 360.

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Hmm so they are effectivly all out of jobs once Halo wars is finished, who wants to bet there is some kind of "unaviodable delay"?

I feel bad for them, they're working hard and they get kicked out even though they did a good job so far....

and full-time employees will still have jobs elsewhere in the company after the game is completed. "Our goal is to keep everyone here until the game is done," he said.

Those two sentences seem to be at odds with each other, somewhat.

Still, sucks that Ensemble are getting broken up. On a side note though, the picture of the Scarab launching it's main cannon into that squad of marines is awesome. :D

My favorite franchise and dev team, raped and pillaged... I'm inconsolable... I will be keeping an eye out for a new studio staffed by old ES members, though.

Damn, these were the guys that made Age of Empires, right?

Will this have an impact on the quality of Halo Wars? If it does there are two ways this could happen.

1. If they're out of a job once it's finished then they might spend a lot of time getting it right so as to postpone the inevitable; possibly making it a better game.
or
2. The Dev team gets pissed off and doesn't put much effort into finishing HW, or even purposely sabotage it out of spite.

Big Question: Which will happen?
Big Answer: I don't care as i don't have a 360 :)

Rooster Cogburn:
My favorite franchise and dev team, raped and pillaged... I'm inconsolable... I will be keeping an eye out for a new studio staffed by old ES members, though.

There are precious few great developers left for the nineties that still hold integrity in my eyes. There goes another one...

This worse then when Nintendo Dropped Rare.

Isn't this a Dilbert comic?

"After you finish your project, you will be downsized. I hope that won't affect the quality of your work."

This won't effect Halo Wars, and Microsoft kept the lead group of ES and they're making a new MSG studio. So this doesn't really mean that the Age of Empire Series is dead.

Swift Tactix:
This won't effect Halo Wars, and Microsoft kept the lead group of ES and they're making a new MSG studio. So this doesn't really mean that the Age of Empire Series is dead.

With Microsoft calling the shots, it may be in all but name. We'll have to wait and see, but I am not optimistic.

thebobmaster:

Swift Tactix:
This won't effect Halo Wars, and Microsoft kept the lead group of ES and they're making a new MSG studio. So this doesn't really mean that the Age of Empire Series is dead.

With Microsoft calling the shots, it may be in all but name. We'll have to wait and see, but I am not optimistic.

But don't they already call the shots?

What a dick-move by Microsoft. Reminds me of the time my Uncle got first from a job because the company was about to strike it big and didn't want to pay him what they'd promised.

OverlordSteve:
What a dick-move by Microsoft. Reminds me of the time my Uncle got first from a job because the company was about to strike it big and didn't want to pay him what they'd promised.

You're only just figuring out that they're dicks?

Swift Tactix:

thebobmaster:

Swift Tactix:
This won't effect Halo Wars, and Microsoft kept the lead group of ES and they're making a new MSG studio. So this doesn't really mean that the Age of Empire Series is dead.

With Microsoft calling the shots, it may be in all but name. We'll have to wait and see, but I am not optimistic.

But don't they already call the shots?

Indeed. Age of Mythology and AoE3 were concieved after MS took over. AoE1+2 and expansions were released before the MS buyout in 2001.

Did anyone really "expect" this?

"You shut us down? Pfft, saw it coming..."

scarbunny:
Hmm so they are effectivly all out of jobs once Halo wars is finished, who wants to bet there is some kind of "unaviodable delay"?

I think Ensemble is going to go independent after that.

Wouldn't the sales of Halo Wars be more than enough to cover the expenses made by the team? I mean, it has "Halo" in the title so I'd assume it would be somewhat successful, and judging by what Ensemble have done I'm pretty sure it would have.

There has to be something more to this, Ensemble were the guys who made the AGe of Empires or whatever series, and they're more than successful. Why would MS drop a successful company? Even if it was a bit expensive, the money they were probably guaranteed by making the game is good.

This makes no sense. If it aint broken, why fix it?

Figures.

So they get canned after making the 2009(2010?) GOTY(and subsequently top seller) but before they get paid for it? Put the thing on indefinite delay and use the company money to do fun things instead.

This might be worse than when EA bought and then dismantled westwood (makers of the original C&C games)

just goes to show if someone like that isnt safe working with MS who is?

It's true that Microsoft already was calling the shots, but we don't know to what degree ES was able to reduce their influence, or how much autonomy they were given. With ES dissolved, I think we can expect any future AoE titles to be about as cerebral and true to the franchise as a kick to the naughty bits.

 

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