Report: Axed Ensemble â??not the right studioâ?? for Natal

Report: Axed Ensemble â??not the right studioâ?? for Natal

By Rob Crossley

June 4th 2009 at 3:38PM

E3'09: Shane Kim explains that Microsoft made a 'substantial' investment in motion-sensing as Ensemble was cut loose

Microsoft’s Shane Kim has explained that the now-defunct Ensemble Studios was axed by Microsoft when the company was heavily investing in its motion sensing device, Natal.

“We were positioning for things like Natal, and I don’t think the talent at Ensemble or Flight Simulator were necessarily the right studios for that,” said Kim in an interview with Venturebeat.

The entire Microsoft business has suffered heavily as the global recession sunk to its nadir. In January the company announced it would be axing 5,000 jobs in a bid to cut spending by $1.5 billion, while in May CEO Steve Ballmer left the door open for more job cuts.

Kim explained that – despite Microsoft’s troubles – Natal had received a “substantial” investment from Microsoft, comparing the importance of the motion-sensing business to its own stronghold, Xbox Live.

Back in September last year, Microsoft confirmed it was disbanding the acclaimed veteran developer Ensemble for financial reasons. Ensemble founder Bruce Shelly wrote on the studio’s blog how shocked the team was at the decision.

"We thought we were among the best studios in the world, and that may be true,” he said at the time, “but we don’t fit in the future plans of MGS as an internal studio so we’re out."

In January Microsoft confirmed the closure of its internal Aces Studio, responsible for the Flight Simulator series, to “align our people against [Microsoft’s] highest priorities.”