Not a bad package for the price, if you don’t mind games that have… aged a bit.
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. 😉
Microsoft has making some funky business decisions and the victim will be the veteran Ensemble Studios, who, after finishing Halo Wars will shut shop. But what about the franchise they are most famous for: Age of Empires? Will it also disappear into the black hole?
Microsoft assures us that it is perfectly safe. “Microsoft continues to own Age of Empires.” says Shane Kim, VP of Interactive Entertainment at Microsoft. Of course, with Ensemble Studios biting the bullet, they won’t be the ones making any future games in the franchise. But the franchise isn’t dead either.
“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.”
So, who will keep the continue the pedigree? We have no clue. But a good guess would be the new development studio Microsoft is talking about that will probably replace Ensemble Studio. Of course, we have no idea on what this studio is, or what sort of games it will making. But yep, Age of Empires is still alive and well.
And that sparks a question for AoE fans such as myself: where does the series go from here? A logical step in progression would be continue where Age of Empires III left off: at the Industrial Age. We can probably work our way up to World War I, maybe even World War II.
Or perhaps an even enticing proposal would be reboot the franchise and start all over from the Classical Era? Or maybe a sequel to Age of Empries II, to give that awesomesauce medieval action back? The possibilities!