Is Halo Wars 2 a desperate Ave Maria for Microsoft?

Is Halo Wars 2 a desperate Ave Maria for Microsoft?

Is Halo Wars 2 a desperate Ave Maria for Microsoft?

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The “last thing” from Microsoft’s Gamescom 2015 press conference wasn’t a new Gears of War game, as E3 was already factoring that in. This wasn’t a new Forza game, as it will be released next month. Nor was it a new franchise. Instead, we were treated to another Halo game, but not the main shooter that is Halo 5: Guardians; no, it was Halo Wars 2, a strategy game set in the Halo universe.


The first Halo Wars game garnered more attention for being the latest game from Ensemble Studios, the legendary Age of Empires studio, and relatively little interest for its rather unique take on the Real Time Strategy (RTS) genre that didn’t was never popular on consoles. When Microsoft shut down Ensemble shortly after Halo Wars was released, many fans felt cheated.

(Also see: Gamescom is the biggest event in video games – here’s what to expect this year)

Ironically, Phil Spencer, the Xbox manager, announced Halo Wars 2 saying it underlines Microsoft’s commitment to first-party games on Xbox and Windows; he was also the man responsible for the elimination of Ensemble after Halo Wars. At the time, his leaked email said the following:

“Today we shared with our employees at Ensemble that we plan to close the studio after Halo Wars RTM. Such a decision is never easy. Like any business, we are responsible for making compromises and for the right standard of investments that will lead However, as we reviewed our first-party portfolio and where we needed to invest and divest our resources to achieve our long-term strategies, it became clear to us that closing the studio and redeploying those resources to other more scalable ventures is the right thing for our business right now.”

Spencer’s email goes on to state that the company “will continue to bring in talent to work on titles and franchises where we will see the most return on investment. [return on investment] .”

Fast forward to 2015 and you have the same man presenting a game in a genre the company has long since ditched for more popular fare. It’s no secret that much of the real-time strategy cake is dominated by Blizzard’s StarCraft II. Other than that, there’s not much else since Electronic Arts hasn’t made a new Command & Conquer game, and Microsoft has a mobile version of Age of Empires that’s more like Clash of Clans. .

In the whole industry, RTS games are not really flourishing now. In fact, it has become much less popular as RTS games are being supplanted by Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) games such as DOTA 2 and League of Legends which evolved from RTS.

Maybe that’s a sign of how desperate things are getting in Redmond. Of course, it’s a big season ahead for Xbox One with Forza 6, Halo 5 and Tomb Raider. Next year is looking good too, with Crackdown, Scalebound and Quantum Break. Plus, there’s Gigantic – Microsoft’s own MOBA for taking on League of Legends. But with Xbox One sales outside of the US, one can’t help but think the Xbox division is trying to do everything it can to stay afloat, and more Halo has always been a rallying cry for Microsoft when times are tough.

(Also see: Xbox One Dominates US With Black Friday Deals, Gets Dominated In India)

And while it would be unfair to hold a seven-year-old leaked email against Microsoft, logic dictates that it would have made more business sense to greenlight a story set in the Halo universe that involved a genre much more accessible. On the bright side, Halo Wars 2 is made by Creative Assembly, which is known for its strategic prowess through the Total War series. And considering that Halo is the most important franchise for Microsoft right now, it seems there’s very little to worry about in terms of quality.

One thing is certain and that is that the fans are delighted. As 343 Industry boss Bonnie Ross said just before the teaser, “There are more stories in the Halo universe that story fans have long been asking us to keep going.”

It will be interesting to see how long Microsoft’s strategy of listening to “user feedback” continues. Although Spencer seems to have Nadella’s patronage, that will only last as long as there are results. Until then though, Xbox One and Windows 10 gamers still have a game to look forward to.


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