Farewell to Ensemble Studios and thanks for Age of Empires

Saw this sad note on the Ensemble Studios site today:

Ensemble Studios created the Age of Empires series of games; I’ve played these since the first release and had a huge amount of fun. Some of the best times have been with multiplayer with friends and family on a home network. The games combine strategic interest and challenge with rich graphics, which of course have evolved remarkably in line with increasingly powerful PC graphics cards.

If anyone from Ensemble reads this – thank you.

We can still enjoy playing the games but the studio is a victim of Microsoft’s cost-cutting. This particular closure was announced in September 2008, though the closure was delayed to enabled the completion of Halo Wars. While I have no idea what the spreadsheets say, I’m surprised to see Microsoft wielding the axe in this area of its business. We’ve recently been reading how video games are surpassing music and video in turnover and that they are relatively resilient in a recession since they are for evenings in rather than nights out. High quality PC games have a spinoff benefit for Microsoft by making Windows a more attractive platform.

The recently announced closure of Aces Studio, responsible for Flight Simulator and the ESP simulation platform, seems even more short-sighted. As James Governor observes, virtual worlds and simulation have huge business potential and environmental benefit. has an extended Ensemble tribute.

PS on a happier note, Ensemble’s Bruce Shelley noted in his last blog entry (which seems to have gone offline):

There are at least two new studios being formed by ES employees and I expect both to do very well. 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.

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