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Even Ensemble Doesn't Understand Their Closure

There's an interview with Dave Pottinger on Shacknews that talks with the director of technology at Ensemble Studios about the news that they are being closed by owner Microsoft. Topics include the success of the Age of Empires franchise, the promise of their Halo Wars project, and their cancelled Halo MMOG. The conversation about all those successful and potentially successful projects naturally drifts to questions about why a studio with such a pedigree would be closed, but Dave seems as mystified by this as the rest of us: "They... they have a plan. We're not in it the way that we used to be. It's... they're making the choice that they need to make to be profitable, and make the right choice for the shareholders and things like that. It's hard to look at the stuff Ensemble's done and equate those two things, and justify it in that sense, but..."

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50. Re: Even Ensemble Doesn't Understand The Nov 20, 2008, 12:53 Masa
 
Are you saying RTS is mainstream when compared to genres like FPS?

But...the RTS genre is mainstream compared to other genres...including FPS. Walk into Best Buy, Walmart, etc and you'll see Dawn of War and Commander and Conquer [Game X] alongside other releases.

...my original claim was that RTS is relatively niche when compared to other genres, like FPS.

Well, your original claim was also backed with the claim that RTS's "are not mainstream" to which is a dubious a claim at best. To say the RTS genre is "relatively nice" when it's compared to other popular genres (I'll just drop the word "mainstream" altogether) at least admits it's got quite a bit of wide appeal in the popular gaming market. Hell, EA keeps pounding C&C games don't they?

Publishers and developers are more interested in making money quickly, rather than over prolonged periods of time.

Shrug. That mindset works for selling single games and starting new franchises that may or may not take off. However, a lot of the popular RTS games have at least some amount of history behind them, God knows the C&C series goes back quite a few years. EA puts up the money for another game in that series, they're relying on the brand to sell it itself in many ways.
 
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49. Re: Ensemble on Closing Nov 18, 2008, 14:40 Kxmode
 
Nerd fight  
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48. Re: Ensemble on Closing Nov 18, 2008, 09:29 dryden555
 
It sounds like Halo Wars was a "test" for MS and they didnt like what Ensemble made, and Ensemble is out the door.  
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47. Re: Even Ensemble Doesn't Understand The Nov 18, 2008, 00:01 Buckle Down
 
You apparently don't know what niche means.

You apparently don't know what "relatively" means. Also, you still haven't cited your sources.

Easy now ladies...
 
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46. Re: Even Ensemble Doesn't Understand The Nov 17, 2008, 23:55 Jerykk
 
You apparently don't know what niche means.

You apparently don't know what "relatively" means. Also, you still haven't cited your sources.
 
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45. Re: Even Ensemble Doesn't Understand The Nov 17, 2008, 23:45 PHJF
 
You apparently don't know what niche means. Just because GM outsells Ford (for the sake of argument, i don't give a shit about car sales) doesn't make Ford a niche manufacturer.  
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Steam + PSN: PHJF
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44. Re: Even Ensemble Doesn't Understand The Nov 17, 2008, 23:31 Jerykk
 
Source? While it's good to see that you are trying to back up your argument with fact, I'm curious to see where you got those numbers.

Regardless, my original claim was that RTS is relatively niche when compared to other genres, like FPS. I don't think you can really argue otherwise. In addition, most of the games you listed have been out for years. Publishers and developers are more interested in making money quickly, rather than over prolonged periods of time. After all, you can't fund your next game with money you don't have yet.

Here are some sales for recent mainstream action/adventure games:

Assassin's Creed: 6 million. ( http://www.videogamer.com/xbox360/assassins_creed/news-8122.html )

Halo 3: 8.1 million. ( http://news.teamxbox.com/xbox/15391/Latest-Xbox-360-Halo-3-Sales-Figures-Are-Astounding/ )

Fable 2: 1.5 million. ( http://www.n4g.com/News-231428.aspx )

Gears of War 2: 2 million. ( http://kotaku.com/gaming/gears-of-war/gears-of-war-sells-2-million-copies-222103.php )

GTA4: 10 million. ( http://ir.take2games.com/ReleaseDetail.cfm?ReleaseID=332433 )

This comment was edited on Nov 17, 2008, 23:57.
 
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43. Re: Even Ensemble Doesn't Understand The Nov 17, 2008, 23:08 PHJF
 
starcraft - 9.5 million units
cossacks - 4 million
warcraft 3 - 3 million
age of empires - 3 million
red alert - 3 million
age of empires 3 - 2.5 million
anno 1503 - 2.5 million
warcraft 2 - 2 million
age of empires 2 - 2 million
black and white - 2 million
tiberian sun - 1.5 million
empire earth - 1 million
age of mythology - 1 million
rome total war - 1 million
imperium 3 - 1 million
supreme commander - 1 million
 
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42. Re: Even Ensemble Doesn't Understand The Nov 17, 2008, 22:40 Buckle Down
 
Because EA makes RTS games, you fool. EA doesn't do anything that isn't mainstream.

That's really your whole argument? Guess I'm wasting my time with thoughtful responses. Though, I will agree that EA's RTSes are more mainstream than most other RTSes.

That's a weak argument; fallacious at best.
 
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41. Re: Even Ensemble Doesn't Understand The Nov 17, 2008, 22:36 Jerykk
 
Because EA makes RTS games, you fool. EA doesn't do anything that isn't mainstream.

That's really your whole argument? Guess I'm wasting my time with thoughtful responses. Though, I will agree that EA's RTSes are more mainstream than most other RTSes.
 
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40. Re: Even Ensemble Doesn't Understand The Nov 17, 2008, 22:28 Buckle Down
 
Because EA makes RTS games, you fool. EA doesn't do anything that isn't mainstream.

I fail to see what that has to do with the fact that's Dagok's values are all fake.
 
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39. Re: Even Ensemble Doesn't Understand The Nov 17, 2008, 22:25 PHJF
 
Because EA makes RTS games, you fool. EA doesn't do anything that isn't mainstream.  
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38. Re: Even Ensemble Doesn't Understand The Nov 17, 2008, 22:00 Buckle Down
 
Says the man playing Far Cry 2 with a NoDRM link in his signature.

And that has what to do with topic at hand or to disprove how contradictory Pitifuls comment was? Nothing. Move on troll.

Yet still, as you say this, I look at your signature and see this:

Currently Playing: Far Cry 2,

NoDRM- http://steamcommunity.com/groups/nodrm/

You are DENSE. Go die now.
 
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37. Re: Even Ensemble Doesn't Understand Their Closure Nov 17, 2008, 21:54 Buckle Down
 
In other words. The studio talent has become too expensive to keep together, when Microsoft can shut them down, move around some people and get rid of others all in the name of keeping costs down. Doesn't matter that they consistently made good products.

That's an amazing analysis. Did you figure that out all by yourself?
 
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36. Re: Even Ensemble Doesn't Understand The Nov 17, 2008, 21:26 Kxmode
 
horse shit

This
 
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35. Re: Even Ensemble Doesn't Understand The Nov 17, 2008, 20:49 Jerykk
 
horse shit

How so? Are you saying RTS is mainstream when compared to genres like FPS? Care to provide your reasoning or is "horse shit" the culmination of your argument?

My reasoning is that RTS has an inherently steep learning curve. In mainstream games like shooters, you know what works right off the bat. Take cover when being shot at, aim for the head, shotgun is good up close, sniper rifle is good from a distance, etc. RTS, on the other hand, requires an intimate knowledge of all the units and structures. You need to know how much they cost, how long they take to build, what they are strong against, what they are weak against and how to mix them with other units to compensate for these weaknesses. You also need to know build orders and you have to be able to micromanage your units in multiple skirmishes across the map while managing your economy on a larger scale. You need to know where the resource points on the map are so you can expand as quickly as possible.

As such, RTS simply doesn't offer instant gratification like other genres. If you are a newb and you jump online to play an RTS, you are going to get absolutely raped and will have nothing to show for it. If you are a shooter newb, you can still jump onto a server and get at least a few kills. With an RTS, you also have to stick with any given match. If you quit, you lose. That means you may be stuck in a match for an hour or more. You can't just hop in, kill a few units and then hop out.

There's also the matter of immersion. The success of high production value but shallow games shows that mainstream audiences are more interested in superficially immersive experiences than deep or challenging gameplay mechanics. RTS has always stressed the opposite, where gameplay mechanics take complete precedence over an immersive presentation.

Finally, there's the simple fact that RTS has always been a predominantly PC genre. PC's are niche compared to consoles and therefore, any games that are typically PC-exclusive are niche as well.
 
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34. Re: Even Ensemble Doesn't Understand The Nov 17, 2008, 20:29 PHJF
 
RTS is a relatively niche genre when compared to other genres

horse shit
 
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33. Re: Even Ensemble Doesn't Understand The Nov 17, 2008, 20:16 Jerykk
 
While PC gaming may be a victim here, do you really honestly think that people sat around a table and thought, "hey lets close Ensemble to put another nail in PC gamings coffin!" ?

It seems you didn't actually read my post. I explicitly said that MS doesn't hate PC gaming just for the hell of it. Everything is motivated by profit. 360 games make MS more money than PC games. This is fact. Ensemble was primarily a PC developer. This is fact. Ensemble was primarily a PC RTS developer. This is fact. RTS is a relatively niche genre when compared to other genres, like action. This is fact. RTS games have never sold very well on consoles. This is fact.

Now let's put all the facts together. Microsoft is clearly focusing their efforts on the 360. As such, they want developers to make games that will sell as much as possible on 360. Strategy games have never been big sellers on consoles. MS obviously isn't expecting Halo Wars to be a big seller either, otherwise they wouldn't have killed Ensemble. While the AoE series has sold well on the PC, MS doesn't want to fund PC games anymore. They want to fund 360 games where they stand to make the most profit. Apparently they didn't expect Ensemble to be able to expand beyond the PC-centric RTS genre so they got rid of them.

In summary: Microsoft's business plan revolves around the 360. Any developer that isn't catered to the 360 is going to get cut. Ensemble, an RTS developer, isn't really catered towards the 360 and MS does not expect any console RTS to break sales records. Conversely, Lionhead, an action RPG developer, isn't going to get cut because their games do cater towards the 360 and sell very well on that platform.

Really, you should actually read my posts before you go around calling people morons.
 
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32. Re: Even Ensemble Doesn't Understand The Nov 17, 2008, 20:13 Yosemite Sam
 
So which is it? They are being closed because MS hates PC and wants people on the 360? Or because their latest effort is a turd?

Both, what I was saying is that they got dumped becuase they couldnt convert to the XBOX, their attempt to develope an XBOX game failed so they got dumped.

I mean, seeing as they are keeping some people, getting rid of others and keeping a crew on to do post release support, etc...would they do that if they thought the game sucked?

Thats all about rep, they are releasing a game for the XBOX and they need to make sure it is supported, especially after the hit they took with RROD.

Or maybe it's like Dave Pottinger said and has been mentioned dozens of times before in other articles...that this move is entirely financial.

I am sure it is and when it comes to the axe wheres the first place they look, PC games, and like someone said it is not about hating PC, its about monopolizing the XBOX. Sony fucked up, what they failed to realize was that the console war isnt about which one is the better product, it is about content. PS2 ruled not because it was better then the XBOX, it ruled becuase it had all the content. Microsoft realized this and pushed out the 360, inferior product but it had a head start and now has all the content. Point is they are now in a position to dominate and possibly even take out Sony, you think they are going to devote a single resource to the PC as far as games are concerned?

Pitiful, so far everything you have said, including your first post is all conjecture.

Absolutely, but all the evidence points in that direction. It is not that I really think they are actively trying to kill the PC as a game platform, but they will do nothing to support it, and if it happens to die well they will shed no tears. Not that I belive it will ever die, go back to the fringe, most likely but never totally vanish.
 
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CIV4 MOD http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=326525
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31. Re: Even Ensemble Doesn't Understand Their Closure Nov 17, 2008, 20:13 Z9000
 
Age of Empires 3 is one of my all time favorite games. Cities with experience points and levels, that get custom skill trees so you can customize your faction was very cool. I still play it which to me is the biggest compliment I can give it. Good luck Ensemble, you will be very missed.  
PS3 resurgance by GOW3 - Check! Mass Effect for PS3 - Check! Diablo 3 for consoles? I say "For sure"!
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