January 30, 2009 - With Halo Wars for the Xbox 360 now complete, Ensemble Studios has shut down. Microsoft, which acquired Ensemble in 2001, announced the closure of the Dallas-based studio last year, sending shock waves through the strategy community. Ensemble had created the popular and acclaimed Age of Empires franchise which sold more than 20 million copies worldwide.
When Microsoft announced the closure, Ensemble was busy working on Halo Wars, the first real-time strategy game based on the blockbuster Halo franchise. Microsoft laid off all non-essential staff and gave the rest incentives to finish the project. Now with the game gone gold, Ensemble shut its doors on Thursday.
To say goodbye and thank you, famed designer Bruce Shelley posted the final update on the Ensemble Studios blog. Shelley was an assistant designer to Sid Meier, and he helped to create classics such as Sid Meier's Civilization and Railroad Tycoon. He then joined Ensemble in the 1990s and helped create Age of Empires.
In the blog update, Shelley gave thanks to Ensemble co-founders Tony and Rick Goodman for inviting him to join the company, which he described as "probably the most defining experience of my career." He thanked his coworkers for the long hours they spent together, and he thanked the fans who supported the studio by buying the games. Shelley also noted that there are at least two studios being formed by former Ensemble employees, so while Ensemble is gone, its legacy will live on.