Age of Empires updates "no longer cost-effective"

Creating new content for free-to-play title "too expensive to maintain for long"

Microsoft has told Age Of Empires Online players not to expect anymore updates for the free-to-play game, and blamed costs for the decision.

"Creating top-tier content, as we have been for the last year and a half, is very expensive-too expensive to maintain for long, as it turns out," users were informed via a blog post by executive producer Kevin “Trajan” Perry

"We can no longer afford to keep creating it. AOEO already has a very large amount of high-quality, hand-crafted entertainment, and adding more is no longer cost-effective."

The post added that the game would carry on, with customer support and community challenges, although admitted bug-fixing would henceforth be a slower process.

"This is a bittersweet announcement for me to make," continued Perry.

"While I wish that we had been able to add everything that we had wanted (especially a Roman civilisation), I am very proud of the work that has been done to get to this point. Over the past year specifically we have made a significant amount of changes to the service, including highly complex changes like altering the business model entirely."

Age Of Empires Online was originally in development with Robot Entertainment, but Gas Powered Games took the reins in February 2011, prior to the game's release that August.

The post does not confirm whether the news means staff cuts at Gas Powered, and GamesIndustry International has contacted the company for more information.

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Latest comments (6)

Luke Salvoni Senior iOS Developer 5 years ago
I think that comparisons could be drawn between say AoE 3 as the full, boxed version of a successful franchise and then the unconvincing launch of AoE F2P, aka AoEO - versus BF2 and BF Play4Free or say even BF Heroes. They're all relatively ghastly, cut-down variants of their predecessors - surely they should at least be equivalent in some respects or be a genuinely unique experience, rather than less-powerful titles with a handful of added DLC so that the developers can try to recoup some funds.

They were all doomed from launch - or even during development I feel - seems EA for one like choosing this path; just see what horrors they're doing with the already shattered C&C franchise with the upcoming Generals 2 and its F2P launch plans. The series should have been canned after Tib Twilight IMHO... yet now they have a chance to redeem themselves by utlising the Frostbite 2 engine, but they've shotthemselves in the foot already by (originally) stating no single-player and that it would be F2P.

So what is the solution, I hear you ask? Stop wasting everyone's time and $millions on poor variants of successful franchises. The high-profile game launches that we do hear and that do sell by the bucketload do not necessarily just have "uber" graphics or a few tweaks since their last installment (eg, CoD) - the developers need to get back to basics and rip apart the classics from their franchises that made them successful in the first place, and attempt to replicate why people liked and bought them in the first place, and then freshen them up.

There's nothing I'd rather do than play a slightly shinier version of the classic PATSUX bonus level from C&C, or begin another Spanish invasion of the lands in AoE 2...
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Emily Knox Associate Designer, CCP Games5 years ago
I adored AoE 1-3 and Age of Mythology, but AoEO never managed to appeal to me like the original games and their expansions did, I think partially because of the loss of Ensemble whom I had huge faith in, and the change in art direction where the games had previously (I think) strived to look more realistic, AoEO looks cartoonish by comparison. The earlier titles in the series were a strategy staple for me and my sister when we were children (and continues to be to this day), very sad to see such a strong series faltering with its latest iteration.
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David Radd Senior Editor, IndustryGamers5 years ago
I think Microsoft tried to get ahead of a trend and may have handicapped themselves. They cut Ensemble Studios because they didn't want to maintain a large developer in what they perceived as a failing space (AAA PC titles), despite the success they always had. It wasn't inherently a bad idea to do this game, but they should have kept Ensemble around long enough for an Age of Empires IV.
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Show all comments (6)
Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 5 years ago
Yet another reason these expensive to produce online games need a standalone offline mode and/or co-op play via linked consoles or LAN play. All you get once a game like this goes down is a canned account and memories. At least with a disc version, you could still play the game or pass it along to someone who might enjoy it as much or more. That said, I hope it stays around so those who've invested time in the game still have something to play and those new/newer players are left hanging.

I'd have to agree with Emily about the art style, though. I think it's geared right for the more casual player with the short attention span and not the AoE fans who might have kept the game going longer had it been closer in complexity and visual appeal to the Ensemble games. Of course, catering to players with catchy cute WoW-like art isn't a sin by any means. i just don't think it needs to be the go-to "look" for every other game trying to hook in an audience.
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Morgan Ramsay Founder, President & CEO, Entertainment Media Council5 years ago
David, if you're interested, I interviewed Tony Goodman about the rise and fall of Ensemble Studios. Gamasutra posted that excerpt, although they cut the first part of the interview. You can find the link on my website.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morgan Ramsay on 5th January 2013 12:44am

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Dean Parker5 years ago
Strongly suggest reading Morgan's link as above - some very interesting insights into Ensemble and the closure.
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