Microsoft very recently announced their plan to dissolve one of their most famous and profitable studios: Ensemble Studios, who have provided them the Age of Empires series for so long and are now working on Halo Wars. But what happens after Halo Wars? Will the Age of Empires franchise be lost into the abyss of nothingness?
Microsoft earlier seemed to suggest that that is not so. While AoE is in their safe hands (some might use other adjectives), what exactly will happen of it? Sequels? Spin-offs? When?
In an epic interview with gamesindustry.biz, Phil Spencer from Microsoft says that they have a plan. Microsoft plans to push the franchise ahead, as it is one of their pillars of support for Windows (a bit like Gears and Halo are for the Xbox 360, I suppose). All 3 iterations of the series have done very well, so Microsoft wouldn’t give up this franchise so easily anyways.
Of course, Ensemble Studios won’t be making anything anymore, and Spencer says that they won’t be necessary for the next Age (heh, pun not intended). But yep: Age of Empires is alive and well and may be coming anytime now.
That image above comes from an artbook released with the collector’s edition of Age of Empires III. It seems to suggest that Ensemble had a big franchise in mind that stretches all the way to version 5. Continuing the series’ historical progression, we’ll head from the Renaissance/Industrial era into the Modern Era with AoE 4 and then the future with AoE 5.
Sounds like a decent enough plan, but I’d rather they go back through history all over again. In any case, the modern age sure as hell wasn’t an “age of empires” and I’d like it if the future wasn’t either. 😉