Age of Empires Series Wiki

Ensemble Studios was a video game developer best known for its work on the Age of Empires series. It employed about 100 people, including notable game developers; Bruce Shelley, Graeme Devine, and Sandy Petersen.


Ensemble was established as an independent company in 1995, in Dallas, Texas, by Tony Goodman, his brother, Rick Goodman, along with Bruce Shelley and Brian Sullivan. It released its first game, Age of Empires in 1997, set in the historical antiquity period.

Two years later, the company released a sequel set in the Middle Ages, Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings, to critical acclaim. An expansion, The Conquerors, followed the next year. In May 2001, Microsoft acquired the company. Age of Mythology, a spin-off from the original series, was released the following year.

Age of Empires III was released on October 18, 2005 in North America. It follows on from the end of Age of Empires II, set during European settlement of the Americas. The first expansion to Age of Empires III, titled The WarChiefs includes new content, new gameplay elements, a new single-player campaign, and three new Native American civilizations. The final expansion, The Asian Dynasties, features three Asian civilizations, three different campaigns, existing gameplay element additions, and was co-developed with Big Huge Games.

Ensemble worked in collaboration with Bungie Studios on Halo Wars, a real-time strategy game based on the Halo universe for the Xbox 360 platform. In 2016, it was released on Xbox One and Windows under Halo Wars: Definitive Edition, a port with graphical enhancements.

Ensemble had a vague plan to make an Age of Empires IV set in a more modern period, but it was not universally popular inside the studio; many designers felt that the series was about the more ‘romanticizable' periods of history, so there was a concern that the series would lose its luster going to the modern era, where everything was more memorable. The designers were also unsure how they could have handled the theme of different civilizations vying for control in a modern era, and they wouldn't have felt comfortable faithfully handling the Axis powers.

In a decision made by Microsoft, and announced on September 9, 2008, Ensemble was closed in 2009. Subsequently, many former employees went on to found the companies Robot Entertainment and Bonfire Studios. Despite Ensemble's closure, Robot Entertainment released an update for Age of Empires III and its expansions. The studio was also responsible for maintaining ESO operations until 2011.


The closure of Ensemble led to the formation of many new development studios by former employees:

  • Tony Goodman, along with a number of veteran developers, announced in February 2009 to have founded the studio Robot Entertainment.
  • A second team of about 35 developers announced to have founded Bonfire Studios (later Zynga Dallas) in the same month, headed by David Rippy.
  • Dusty Monk established Windstorm Studios.
  • The brothers Paul Bettner and David Bettner founded Newtoy, Inc. (later Zynga With Friends).
  • The brothers Tommy Bean and Michael Bean established Pixelocity Software (after briefly working at Robot Entertainment)
  • Jeff Ruediger co-founded the mobile game development studio Fuzzycube Software in March 2009.
  • Graeme Devine established GRL Games in 2010.

List of developed games[]

Release date Title
1997 ReturnRome-AoEIcon Age of Empires
1998 RomeIcon Age of Empires: The Rise of Rome
1999 AoE2-DLCicon-0 Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings
2000 AoE2-DLCicon-1 Age of Empires II: The Conquerors
2002 Aom original icon Age of Mythology
2003 AoM The Titans icon Age of Mythology: The Titans
2005 3Icon48px Age of Empires III
2006 3WCIcon48px Age of Empires III: The WarChiefs
2007 3ADIcon48px Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties*
2009 Halo Wars
* co-developed with Big Huge Games




  • Ensemble Studios occupied the top two floors of its building in Dallas, Texas.
  • The studio was notable for its play-testing procedures; everyone at the company was required to test the current product at least once a week.
  • Mike McCart, the company's webmaster, created the HeavenGames (then known as HeavenWeb) fan site, prior to being hired by Ensemble.

External links[]

Developers of Age of Empires series
Ensemble Studios Logo
Tony Goodman · Brian Sullivan · Bruce Campbell Shelley · Dave Pottinger · Sandy Petersen · Angelo Laudon · Brad J. Crow · Matt Pritchard · Stephen Rippy
FE Logo White Green Medium
Bert Beeckman · Peter Piepenburg · Alexander Fleger · Matt Pritchard · Atomhawk
Campaign creators
Ramsey Abdulrahim
Other development studios
Big Huge Games · Relic Entertainment · Robot Entertainment · SkyBox Labs · Tantalus Media · Wicked Witch · World's Edge · Xbox Game Studios*