Microsoft Game Studios confirms it has given the go ahead to close Ensemble Studios' doors once Halo Wars is released early next year, though Ensemble will form a new independent studio and continue working with the console giant on Halo Wars support as well as other (non-PC platform) projects. According to Microsoft, Ensemble's closure was a "fiscally rooted decision that keeps [Microsoft Game Studios] on its growth path", though of course it notes the move "was not an easy one". Non-essential Ensemble staff reportedly have already been given the axe, though positions within Microsoft itself are promised for remaining team members who do not make the move to the developer's new studio.
Microsoft's move to shutter the developer behind the Age of Empires franchise may appear counter-productive to their commitment to PC gaming under the "Games For Windows" banner. This is especially telling when one considers that Ensemble may not have a hand in PC game development in the future as a result. Perhaps anticipating the grumbling, Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment division corporate VP Shane Kim himself stresses that despite ending Ensemble as we currently know it "to spend the development dollars in other places", PC gaming remains an important part of Microsoft's balanced breakfast. At the very least, the Age of Empires franchise should live on at Microsoft, as will first-party PC game development in general. Third-party PC game development also continues to make its own music (StarCraft II is still coming... someday!), though you've likely heard these studios bemoaning the current state of PC gaming every now and then.