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Microsoft announced on Tuesday that they will be closing Ensemble Studios, the Dallas-based developer of the Age of Empires PC real-time strategy series. So what does this mean for the Halo RTS they're currently working on?

"Non-essential staff" have been laid off but Ensemble will remain open until Halo Wars is complete. A Microsoft internal announcement today revealed that the Ensemble leadership will form a new company along with some of the studio's employees, and this company will provide support for Halo Wars after launch in addition to pursuing new projects. Sucks to see a good company go but at least some of the employees will be rehired and the game will see the light of day.

In the same announcement, Microsoft mentioned that "Halo Wars is already proving to be a hit by people who have seen and played early versions of the game" so Ensemble's closure doesn't seem motivated by a lack of faith in the game. Halo Wars is due on Xbox 360 in the first half of 2009. If life were a bad Dane Cook movie, the employees would purposely never finish it in an attempt to keep the company from closing until they can devise a get-rich-quick scheme. Unfortunately, life isn't a bad Dane Cook movie so good luck to the folks who have been laid off so far or will be laid off next year.

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