Though Ensemble Studios officially closed its doors yesterday, some former staff are already looking to the future, which may include the formation of two new studios and a continuing partnership with Microsoft.
With Halo Wars gold as of yesterday, Ensemble Studios has officially closed up shop. "It is hard to believe that the day has finally come when Ensemble Studios closes its doors and we move on to whatever is next," Ensemble boss Bruce Shelley wrote on his blog. "We are working our way through the final week with mixed emotions. We have a lot to be proud of and new opportunities are beckoning, but it is also sad to see this particular great adventure coming to an end."
Those "new opportunities" may come in the form of new studios founded by ex-Ensemble staffers. "There are at least two new studios being formed by ES employees and I expect both to do very well," Shelley said. "There were a lot of outstanding game developers here and it will be interesting to see how and what they do, both individually and as new groups, in the years ahead." Note that Shelley makes sure to say "at least," suggesting that there may be more than the two he's talking about here.
Aside from those studios, Microsoft will be keeping a select group of Ensemble employees to form a new company that will work on supporting Ensemble's games past and present, including Age of Empires titles and Halo Wars. Regarding Halo Wars specifically, it seems that the new Ensemble studio should have plenty to work on. Microsoft Game Studios' Jason Pace, the lead producer of the game, remarked that there are "dozens and dozens" of features that were left on the cutting room floor, and "those things without mentioning anything specific, are always the kinds of things that we would be looking at to enhance the game moving forward."
Once that's out of the way, does Microsoft plan on jettisoning Ensemble 2.0? "I can tell you right now that we are really interesting in continuing our relationship with Ensemble," Pace said. "We don't have anything finalised that I can discuss, but certainly that is something we'd love to continue if possible." Pace also remarked that Microsoft's "very excited about the future potential" of Age of Empires, so, another AoE with the new Ensemble studio or maybe even one of the Ensemble offshoots? Only time will tell.