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June 3, 2009


Shane Kim: “Talent at Ensemble wasnt right for Natal”


With the E3 expo coming to a close today and after some very interesting announcements at Microsoft one of these was the revolutionary controller free full body motion capture device called “Natal“. Shane Kim an executive at Microsoft Game Studios discussed in an interview with Venture Beat that they have put significant investment behind the project. I imagine the cost of implementing hardware and software into Project Natal must be very expensive. But what other costs would there be for having this motion free technology. It seems as though to make way for Natal Microsoft’s internal studios Flight Sim and Ensemble Studios were the casualties.

The Venture Beat interview finally demonstrates the financial reasons why Microsoft decided to close its incredibly successful internal studio Ensemble Studios. Quoting from the interview Shane Kim responds:

VB: You cut some studios like Flight Simulator and Ensemble Studios.

SK: We also acquired Big Park Studios. I don’t know how constant the ebb and flow will be. It’s not unidirectional. We made some hard decisions in the past. We made good decisions. We are still committed to first party. The Big Park acquisition should demonstrate that to folks. 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.

So there you have it – Project Natal is one of the reasons Microsoft thought was better to invest more in than its long standing internal studios. Will it be the right choice? I am confident that the talent at Ensemble Studios could have made things work with Natal. The studio has some industry visionary legends including Bruce Shelley, Graeme Devine, Sandy Petersen not to mention the rest of the team. Some of the prototypes could have been modelled to work fantastically with Natal including the prototype “Agent”.

It is sad to be blogging about the closing of Ensemble Studios again but it is interesting to find out about the thought process behind the decision. Moving forward though we must support all these talented individuals who have formed new studios. No matter what, we will still see great games from these talented people.

You can read the full interview here:


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