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Microsoft: Closing Ensemble “is the right thing for our business”

Wednesday, 10th September 2008 11:42 GMT By Patrick Garratt

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GI’s got hold of the full email sent out to MGS employees from Phil Spencer detailing the Ensemble closure. Read the entire thing after the break.

“Today, we shared with our employees at Ensemble that we have plans to close the studio after Halo Wars RTM. Such a decision is never easy. Like any business, we’re accountable for making tradeoffs and the right level of investments that will drive profit and future growth. However, as we reviewed our first-party portfolio and where we need to invest and divest our resources to achieve our long-term strategies, it became clear to us that closing the studio and redeploying those resources to other more scalable ventures is the right thing for our business at this time.

“Unfortunately, our decision to close Ensemble will adversely impact many of the studio’s team members. Following the closure, the Ensemble leadership team will form a new entity and have agreed to partner with Microsoft to develop future products and provide support for Halo Wars post launch. While the new company will be hiring a portion of the Ensemble employees, its size and resources prevent it from offering positions to the entire Ensemble team. We hope to integrate much of this creative talent into MGS or the broader IEB team, where we have relevant openings.

“Ensemble Studios has produced many notable games over the years – including the Ages franchise – that have helped MGS become a leader in interactive entertainment. And now, Halo Wars is already proving to be a hit by people who have seen and played early versions of the game. The Ensemble team is committed to continuing its development, testing and support of Halo Wars through to the completion of halo wars. We’re also working closely with the studio’s leaders to ensure a smooth launch of the game in early 2009 and continuing support thereafter. We will support the studio in every way possible as they work to deliver this highly anticipated game.

“This action notwithstanding, I want to emphasize that the overall investment Microsoft is making in video game development is not diminished, and we will continue to bring in talent to work on titles and franchises where we’ll see the most ROI. Our priority is to continue to nurture the creative freedom that allows us to successfully drive our business strategy forward. Meanwhile, we’re launching some outstanding games over the next few months. We’ve just launched Too Human and Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise, and soon we’ll see many other games hit retail store shelves, including Scene It! 2, Fable 2, Gears of War 2, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, Lips and, of course, Halo Wars.

“I want to thank you for your hard work and focus as we head into the next few months and make this a blowout year for first-party games. Please be supportive and respectful of our Ensemble colleagues as they go through this tough time.

“Phil”

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13 Comments

  1. wz

    Well, of course it is the right thing for your business. That’s why you’re doing it.

    #1 6 years ago
  2. maven

    The “annoying” thing (both in this case and Flagship’s) is that both times, the leadership went on to found another studio, although they usually are the ones that are responsible for the less-than-optimal situation they’re in in the first place!

    #2 6 years ago
  3. Blerk

    My suspicion here is that Microsoft is basically planning to close most of (if not all of) MGS in the near future and instead fund individual projects, either by buying in third-party stuff or hiring teams specifically for a single game. Makes a lot of sense in a way, as you can just pick and choose the projects that look interesting and don’t have to continually rely on your own people to do the business every time – just look to see who’s hot and grab them on a temporary contract basis.

    That said, sucks to be a MGS team at the minute.

    #3 6 years ago
  4. Psychotext

    Doesn’t really gel with what we’re seeing Blerk. Lionhead and Rare are hiring and MS are putting together their new elite internal team.

    Definitely looks like they’re cutting as much fat or barely profitable stuff as they can manage though.

    #4 6 years ago
  5. Blerk

    But some of the teams they’re cutting are really quite capable. After what happened with Bungie I wonder if Lionhead, etc. could eventually end up as second party in a similar manner.

    And their elite internal team could basically be intended to work as project leaders within contracted teams for single projects. i.e. get Gearbox in to do Halo 4, bung(ie) a couple of Microsoft producers in there to steer them in the right direction.

    I think we’re already seeing this kind of direction from them anyway – look at some of the temporary (or not) third-party stuff they’ve tied up in the last few years. More cost-effective than developing your own potential (or not) blockbusters internally, surely?

    #5 6 years ago
  6. Psychotext

    Capable, but not necessarily particularly profitable. Business is a bitch.

    #6 6 years ago
  7. Blerk

    In which case, surely the problem is the projects they’re working on and not the team as a whole?

    #7 6 years ago
  8. No_PUDding

    Lionhead and Rare like many other developers are always hiring though.

    SCEI is hiring.

    And this new elite team, if this is about higher that woman that didn’t actually create the early Prey demos, but worked with the guy who did… Well this internal team is really worth losing such an iconic developer?

    Seriously, Age of Empires is…. Age of Empires. It’s amazing!

    #8 6 years ago
  9. Blerk

    Actually if they’re shutting the non-profitable stuff then RARE must be shitting themselves by now. :-D

    #9 6 years ago
  10. Psychotext

    Blerk: Yes, but as a business you don’t care about that. By farming them out to become second party you let them take the bulk of the financial risk while you reap any reward on profitable games they come up with.

    Rare are apparently very profitable. Mostly because all of their 360 titles have done around a million without being particularly high budget.

    #10 6 years ago
  11. Tonka

    It’s the end of gaming.
    I told you all along that MS were behind it.

    #11 6 years ago
  12. Psychotext

    :D

    #12 6 years ago
  13. No_PUDding

    It’s Ensemble :(

    Close down someone crap that no one cares about like that one that does nothing… Not Turn 10, I am sure they have another first party studio.

    I want Age of Empires 4

    #13 6 years ago

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