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Kim: We Still Believe in PC Games

Joe Keiser's picture

By Joe Keiser

September 10, 2008

On Tuesday, rumors swirled and were quickly confirmed that following the release of Halo Wars, Microsoft would close the venerable Ensemble Studios. But Microsoft corporate vice president of interactive entertainment Shane Kim says not to read too much into the studio's demise, and that Age of Empires is safe.

The official announcement of Ensemble’s end stated that the studio was being closed purely for financial reasons. Kim stood behind this statement. “We want to spend the development dollars in other places, and not just related to content,” he told us. “It’s a long term business decision.”

Kim also explained that the reason the announcement was made so early—Ensemble will not be closed until Halo Wars ships in the first half of 2009—was for the benefit of the employees at Ensemble. “We wanted to give the employees as much notice of the decision as possible,” Kim stated, before going on to say that, “We are committed to helping them through this transition.”

Part of that transition includes the creation of a new studio by current Ensemble leadership. Kim made clear that this new studio was to be an independent entity not owned by Microsoft, and that it was a venture being taken by the heads of Ensemble. But the good news, according to Kim, is that “we will have an ongoing relationship with that new company.” While Kim chose not to go into further details, he did reiterate the statement from Tuesday saying that the new company was already devoted to the post-release support of Halo Wars. Such an agreement should help the new studio find its financial legs.

While Microsoft is losing the studio responsible for the successful PC franchise Age of Empires, “Microsoft continues to own Age of Empires.” Kim explains, “It is not losing Age of Empires itself. We’re still super excited for the potential for the franchise. The Windows gaming world continues to evolve, and we believe in the future of that property.”

Kim’s excitement behind Age of Empires is just one example of Microsoft’s commitment to first-party games for Windows, and Kim wanted to make very clear that even though Ensemble’s PC output has been very successful for the publisher, the death of the studio does not mean that Microsoft has lost faith in PC. Kim states unequivocally that there is “absolutely” a future in first-party Games for Windows software, and that gamers shouldn’t take the end of Ensemble to mean that there is any change in how Microsoft's PC gaming strategy on a whole..

In the end, Kim says, “this [decision] really just is about headcount and financial resources.” But though the reasoning is purely fiscal, the simple fact is that Ensemble, a studio that helped define PC gaming for over a decade, will never make another PC game. It’s a significant end, and a cautionary tale for wholly-owned studios that, even when successful (Age of Empires III sold over two million copies), are never truly in charge of their destiny.

“Microsoft continues to own Age of Empires. The Windows gaming world continues to evolve, and we believe in the future of that property.”

Comments

Bleak Corner's picture

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quietIdentity's picture

Some seem worried about the ability for Microsoft to manage Games for Windows and Xbox. I think this a tad ridiculous, if Microsoft wants to retain it's huge market share there is no way they will drop gaming on their platform, that would destroy them. It's the single thing they have on other operating systems, I would love to see gaming on Windows die, but it's just not going to happen.

guzide's picture

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livemre's picture

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guzide's picture

Part of that transition includes the creation of a new studio by current Ensemble leadership. Kim made clear that this new studio was to be an independent entity not owned by Microsoft, and that it was a venture being taken by the heads of Ensemble. But the good news, according to Kim, is that “we will have an ongoing relationship with that new company.” While Kim chose not to go into further details, he did reiterate the statement from Tuesday saying that the new company was already devoted to the post-release support of Halo Wars. Such an agreement should help the new studio find its financial legs. oto kiralama yazgulu diyet araba kiralama herbalife chat burun estetigi

guzide's picture

The official announcement of Ensemble’s end stated that the studio was being closed purely for financial reasons. Kim stood behind this statement. “We want to spend the development dollars in other places, and not just related to content,” he told us. “It’s a long term business decision.”

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BalazsFeher's picture

Dear Kim,

if you believe in PC games, and in us, PC gamers, why don't you release Microsoft titles like Halo 3 and Halo Wars to the PC as well? Is MS afraid of piracy? I think the Games for Windows brand would have a giant leap with titles like Halo 3.

Regards,

Balazs

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diyet's picture

Microsoft likes the idea of letting employees form their own companies, and then enter into exclusive publishing arangements for Xbox 360 and PC games
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diyet's picture

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bugmenot's picture

Yes, sure, Kim, it's better for everybody. It worked so well for Empire Earth, right?. They closed SSS and EE2 and 3 sucked balls.

Microsoft is doing the right thing here... for themselves. That is, everything they can to grow the 360 at the expense of PC gaming. And if in the way they have to kill profitable studios with a long career and still capable of selling millions of their games, so be it. They don't care about the PC, whatever their PCGA BS or Shane Kim say.

It is a pity that there are people like you defending them when they do it.

Kim_Naroz's picture

Ages of Empires will still be released for PC by Microsoft. In fact, many of the people who helped program Ages of Empires at Ensemble Studios will still work on future versions of Ages of Empires, because they have been offered jobs at Microsoft.

Microsoft still owns the Ages of Empire IP Franchise, so they will definitely want those people who worked on previous versions working on newer versions of the game.

Microsoft likes the idea of letting employees form their own companies, and then enter into exclusive publishing arangements for Xbox 360 and PC games. In many ways this is actually better than buying a company, because when you buy the company you are essentially only "buying" their IP Franchises. After all, when you buy a company, the employees are the most valuable part of the company, yet they are free to leave at any time. If employees leave a company, it means that all the money spent "buying" the company was a waste of money.

When a company works with Microsoft, the company receives a larger percentage of profits from software made exclusively for the Xbox 360. This motivates companies to create better software that will sell well, and release the game exclusively for the Xbox 360.

I think Microsoft is doing the right thing here, since Microsoft gets to keep the franchises like Ages of Empre and Halo Wars, and still enter into exclusive publishing arrangements that will produce the best quality software. Microsoft even gets to keep many of the employees who are not a part of the new company that Ensemble "leaders" are forming, since many of those employees are accepting Microsoft's offer for employment.