This is probably one of the stranger stories you’ll read today. Let’s start with some background before we get to the quotes in question.
Bungie is the studio that famously created the Halo franchise. After some shopping around, Microsoft acquired the company and made Master Chief’s exploits exclusive to their platforms. Several years into the series’ banner success, Microsoft had the now defunct Ensemble Studios, a developer famous for RTS work, designing a console-specific strategy game. It wasn’t Halo themed at first.
Ensemble Founder Tony Goodman did a recent interview with GamesIndustry.biz concerning Halo Wars. He spoke specifically about Microsoft’s decision to slap the Halo license on their project.
“Microsoft was pretty risk averse and they said, ‘I don’t know if we want to take the risk of creating strategy games on a console. We’d feel better if Halo were attached to it.’ The difficult part of that was it took the game back about a year in development, and I think it never quite turned out the same. They just said, ‘Why don’t you just paint over what you have with Halo stuff?’ But things aren’t quite that simple…”
Here we have Ensemble, a company that’s proven their worth and merit with games like Age of Empires and Age of Mythology, being told that they need to use an existing license to build their console-specific RTS. Microsoft had a unique property in front of them, but they decided it was smarter to spice it up with a familiar brand.
What’s worse? Bungie hated the idea of Ensemble making Halo Wars, according to Goodman. Here he is again.
“Another problem was that Bungie was never up for it… Bungie was kind of sore about the idea. What they called it was ‘the whoring out of our franchise’ or something. Yeah, that didn’t create a great relationship between us and Bungie; they viewed us as someone infringing [on their franchise]…”
Speaking as a fan of the title, Halo Wars was a really enjoyable game. It’s a shame that Microsoft forced the Halo brand onto it at all.
How about the icing on the cake, then? As soon as Halo Wars launched, Microsoft officially shut down Ensemble Studios. Classy.