Ensemble Studios, the creators of the multi-million selling Age of Empires RTS series, will be shut down by its owner Microsoft. Last week the developer completed its work on the Xbox 360 exclusive game Halo Wars.
Today Ensemble's co-founder Bruce Shelley posted up what will most likely be his final blog entry on the site (in fact sources at Ensemble have told Big Download that Microsoft plans to shut down the Ensemblestudios.com web site on Friday night). Shelley states, "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." Throughout its history there hasn't been much turnover at the studio with Shelley saying, "60% of the people who worked on Age of Empires I were with the studio to the end."
While Ensemble is closing down, Shelley states, "There are at least two new studios being formed by ES employees and I expect both to do very well." One of the unnamed studios will be providing support for both Halo Wars after its release and the ESO online service for their Age of Empires/Mythology titles. The Agecommunity.com web site will also stay online. Shelley states, "We had a burst of games being played right around Christmas, suggesting a lot of Age of Empires III and The Asian Dynasties were received as gifts. The number of players online has jumped up to about 4000 now at peak times and the total number of ESO accounts is now over 800,000."
Shelley still has not revealed his future plans but his final blog statements express his thanks to everyone who has played an Ensemble-created game. He states, "On behalf of everyone at ES, past and present, thanks for your support over the years. Your feedback on our games made the next version better. Buying legitimate copies made it possible for us to keep making them. Thanks also to those who wrote us to express regrets about the end of our studio and even the end of this blog."