David Rippy, founder of Bonfire Studios and former producer at Ensemble Studios, believes that one of the reasons Microsoft chose to shut down Ensemble was due to its lack of versatility, or rather, not having the opportunity to show off its versatility. In a recent interview with Gamesindustry.biz, he said:
I'd actually take it a step further. I believe that Ensemble was so self-sufficient that Microsoft didn't have to worry about it too much. Compare that to studios like Lionhead and Rare, which had some high-ranking Microsoft executives overseeing those companies closely during troubled times. One of the things I heard a few times at DICE 2009 was that those personal relationships is why Rare is still under the Microsoft umbrella and Lionhead was able to weather the storm until Fable II.
And really, the whole thing still confounds me. I understand that Microsoft is emphasizing Xbox gaming over PC gaming, but it's hard to justify retaining guys that made Grabbed by the Ghoulies and Kameo versus the guys that made Age of Empires. I don't mean to pick on Rare (I think); the company has made some good stuff, but it also produced some woeful garbage and embarassed its parent company. Meanwhile, Ensemble was steadily serving up excellent Age of Empires sequels and diligently working on Halo Wars. It still doesn't add up to me.
Someone please tell me what I'm missing! Why do you think Ensemble was shut down? Why did Microsoft greenlight Grabbed by the Ghoulies instead of giving Ensemble a shot at a new genre?