Further, Fischer rebutes Bettner's claim that Ensemble shut down due to a "reliance on crunch" to finish projects that got more and more expensive by the year, saying it had more to do with "chasing after the MMOs and FPSs and RPGs and RTS-differents we constantly had in prototype." He also says that the communication with Microsoft never broke down and that if the publisher had wanted to lower the developer's operating costs, "they could have done so with a phone call ... ES enjoyed a long relationship with Microsoft (as many ex-Studios people now at Robot or Bonfire still do), first as a partner and then as part of the corporation after 2001."
So, according to Fisher, what was the reason that Ensemble shut down? "If you want to find mistakes with what we did, I'd suggest that those trips into the weeds, looking for new territory, with a partner who wasn't fond of being there, was more our error," he suggests, referencing the aforementioned prototypes.
Update: You can find Paul Bettner's full response to Fischer's claims after the break.