While it didn't reach the classic heights of its immediate predecessor, Age of Empires III still keeps chugging along in sales and support. The fanbase tossed off by the gameplay refinements have been gradually replaced by players who love old civilizations inashmuch as they are represented by battle, battle, battle.
Microsoft announced that the second expansion for the game, a shot aimed either at the arm or the foot, will be released this fall. Titled The Asian Dynasties the new content will probably deal with Martians or something. It's worth noting that Ensemble Studios, the creators of the franchise, have passed on the torch for this expansion to Big Huge Games, whose Rise of Nations remains my favorite RTS.
Press release doth follow this pretty picture:
“Age of Empires III” Expands Into the Eastern World This Fall
Big Huge Games to develop second expansion pack for massively popular Games for Windows franchise.
REDMOND, Wash. — May 18, 2007 — Pack your bags — “Age of Empires® III” is heading east. Microsoft Game Studios, Ensemble Studios and Big Huge Games Inc. today unveiled the first details about “Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties,” the second expansion pack for the top-selling “Age of Empires III” that arrives on Microsoft® Windows® XP- and Windows Vista™-based PCs this fall. The expansion pack will introduce gamers to Asian civilizations, a host of new gameplay features, and a new developer that will provide a unique spin to a classic favorite.
Players will experience firsthand the rich and historical influences of Asia while commanding their units and expanding their empire in the Eastern world. The latest expansion pack will be the first “Age of Empires” title developed by Big Huge Games, the development studio responsible for the incredibly popular real-time strategy franchise “Rise of Nations®.”
“We’re honored to have the opportunity to develop ‘Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties’ with Ensemble Studios and confident that the innovation of both teams will deliver an exciting experience for fans of this franchise,” said Brian Reynolds, chief executive officer and creative director of Big Huge Games. “We feel that the in-depth experience of Big Huge Games in the real-time strategy genre, combined with the solid reputation of the ‘Age of Empires’ franchise, will result in something fresh and unique for gamers.”
In addition to the introduction of playable Asian civilizations, the expansion pack will provide new content and several new gameplay elements that include new ways of winning and trading, random map styles that feature remixes of classic “Age of Empires” game styles, and 15 new Asian “Wonders.” The introduction of these features will coincide with the basic core gameplay of “Age of Empires III” that gamers have come to know and love. “Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties” will also ship as a Games for Windows title with easier installation, improved reliability and support for key Windows Vista features, including the Games Explorer and Parental Controls.
“The success of ‘Age of Empires III’ has given us the opportunity to expand the gameplay further and offer a fresh perspective through this expansion pack created by Big Huge Games,” said Bruce Shelley, lead designer, Ensemble Studios. “We’re delighted to have them work on this project with us and certain that they will deliver a great addition to the franchise.”
“Age of Empires III,” which launched in October 2005, is one of the fastest-selling titles in the franchise’s history, placing gamers in the position of a European power struggling to explore, colonize and conquer North and South America, roughly during the time period of 1500 to 1850. The game has garnered numerous awards, including GameSpy’s 2005 Top Ten PC Games of the Year and PC Gamer’s Editors’ Choice. It has sold more than 2 million copies to date and is currently among the top-selling titles for Games for Windows. In addition, the first expansion pack, titled “Age of Empires III: The WarChiefs,” was released for the game last fall.
Images and more information about “Age of Empires III” are available at http://www.agecommunity.com and http://www.ageofempires3.com.
About Big Huge Games
Founded by four veteran game developers who together have brought strategy gamers such classic hits as Rise of Nations, Alpha Centauri®, and Civilization II®, Big Huge Games is a video game studio focused on cutting-edge technology and aimed at mass-market game development. Big Huge Games founders Brian Reynolds, Jason Coleman, David Inscore and Tim Train continue in the tradition of creating inspired and innovative games for PC and next-generation consoles. Creating games that have received numerous “Game of the Year” awards and accolades, Big Huge Games is headquartered in Timonium, Maryland. For more information about Big Huge Games, please visit http://www.bighugegames.com.
About Ensemble Studios
Ensemble Studios (http://www.ensemblestudios.com) is one of the world’s premier entertainment software developers. Ensemble Studios is known for its blockbuster “Age of Empires” and “Age of Mythology®” game series, as well as the upcoming “Halo® Wars.” Ensemble’s titles are distinguished by the highest-quality art and gameplay dynamics applied in familiar historical settings, and appeal to hard-core gamers and mass audiences. Ensemble Studios is based in Dallas, Texas.
Microsoft Game Studios
Microsoft Game Studios is a leading worldwide publisher and developer of games for the Xbox® and Xbox 360™ video game systems, the Windows operating system and online platforms. Comprising a network of top developers, Microsoft Game Studios is committed to creating innovative and diverse games for Windows (http://www.microsoft.com/games), including such franchises as “Age of Empires,” “Flight Simulator” and “Zoo Tycoon®”; Xbox and Xbox 360 (http://www.xbox.com), including such games as “Gears of War” and franchises such as “Halo,” “Fable®,” “Project Gotham Racing®” and “Forza Motorsport®”; and MSN® Games (http://www.games.msn.com), the official games channel for the MSN network and home to such hits as “Bejeweled” and “Hexic®.”
Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.