No one saw the closure of Microsoft Games Studios developer Ensemble Studios coming, and that includes the studio’s founder Bruce Shelley. Today Shelley wrote in his blog that Ensemble employees were “shocked” and remain disappointed with MGS’ decision to close the long-time studio responsible for Halo Wars and Age of Empires.
First, they want to divert the headcount tied up in ES and the costs that are expected to be required to run ES for the next few years into other projects. Second, it sounded like it cost more to run ES on a per person basis than other first party studios (Rare, Lionhead, Forza, Flight Sim) putting us at a disadvantage. (Plus they avoid the expense of a new office that we were planning.) And third, games those studios are expected to deliver in the next few years are expected to be more strategic and profitable to the company than anything we would be finishing after Halo Wars.In case you were worried, Ensemble is still completely committed to Halo Wars. In fact, they're so committed that every spare hand in the studio is working on the title exclusively. The only question that remains is how many passive aggressive swipes at Microsoft will appear in the final version of the game. I wouldn’t be surprised if I read some blurry remarks on the side of a warthog as it rolls down the field this January.