Ensemble Studios officially closed its doors last week, and Gamasutra was there for a final tour. They also report on the never-to-be Halo MMO, which turns out was a very serious project for Microsoft before the inexplicably scrapped it.
The earliest rumors to my memory of the Halo MMO was 2006, but according to Gamasutra, the concept started way back in 1998. It wasn't Halo back then though. It was just an idea for a sci-fi MMO in the wake of Ultima Online's success.
Eventually, Microsoft formed their relationship with Bungie, and then the project evolved into the Halo MMO, codenamed Orion. Microsoft seemed serious in backing up the game. They even began building a new campus facility to house the development and administration that will run the MMO --- and then Microsoft scrapped the project, and the studio.
Ensemble was only one of many, apparently. FASA Studios and ACES, both under Microsoft's game division, were shut down as well. FASA in 2007, and ACES just last month. It looks as if Microsoft is veering away from PC games and focusing on their Xbox division. At any rate, Ensemble's closure is a real loss.
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