On the same day Robot Entertainment announced their first original IP, digitally-distributed Orcs Must Die!, Age of Empires publisher Microsoft has announced that the developers of upcoming free-to-play Age of Empires Online have been replaced.

AoEOnline was announced last fall and featured during this week’s spring showcase event, and while it will continue on uninterrupted, Robot Entertainment are no longer at the helm. Instead Gas Powered Games, famous for the Dungeon Siege and Supreme Commander series, are taking the reins and will bring the RTS to market.

We’ve been working with Gas Powered Games for some time now on a collection of great new content packs (which we’ll reveal a bit later),” writes executive producer Danan Davis. “In that time, it’s become really clear Chris Taylor and his team share our passion to make this one of the best games in Age of Empires franchise history. Rest assured, there’s a dedicated team of folks both at Microsoft and GPG who will continue to work hard to make sure this game blows you away.”

For those worried that things may have gone awry somewhere, Robot community manager SixOkay posts on their forums “This was always in the plan. We’ve even had some [Gas Powered Games] guys down to the studio to get them trained up as far back as last fall. When we opened [our studio], our goal was to work on our own original games.

Microsoft backs this up, adding “This has been the plan for some time, and we’re excited to share the great work GPG has been doing. In working with GPG, it’s become clear they share our long-term commitment to make this a success. Our previous development partner, Robot Entertainment, did amazing work on the game, and we wish them the best in their future projects.”

Here’s hoping Gas Powered are up to the task. We wish them the best of luck. It is worth noting, though: this marks the second time Robot has been, for lack of a better term, shafted; first when they were Halo Wars team Ensemble Studios, eventually reforming under the new independent banner to take over that project, which was then handed off the 343 Industries anyway.

Age of Empires Online is still looking towards a public launch later this year, and is undergoing beta testing tight now.

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