As someone who has a lot of work experience, and been working for some rather large International recognised Corpo’s within the tech industry.
I would not worry to much about AoE4 to whatever happens at relic.
There is one detail that is often glanced over when it comes to AoE.
That AoE (be it 1 2 3 or 4) is a Franchise title.
This means that the people who “Makes and runs” the game isn’t really the ones who own it.
The game runs as a Franchise owned by Microsoft (as Megacorp as u can get). And whats important for them is the well ofcourse Profits, but besides profits, is the Namesake.
Meaning, they don’t really care who’s in the “Bottom” for the lack of a better word, the guys doing the ground work.
What matters is that the Franchise owner’s Idea is Delivered the way the Franchise Owner (or in some cases, like this case, the ones given responsible for the Design), envisions it.
I’ll give you an Example:
McDonalds. You’d think they are the same resturant? that Mcdonald in your local town, is the same Mcdonalds in your neighbouring town?
But It’s not, they have 2 very seperate owners, the “franchise” itself is the same, but the people who “owns” the resturant itself are completely seperated, and run by either a Subcontractor, which could be a company by itself, or a single private person even.
While the Franchise owner quite often is the one taking the responsibility to find Locale and arrange the renting contract with the landlord of that locale, the subcontractor who is going to “run the buisiness” has to pay himself in.
And while he pays himself in to the McDonald buisiness, he also has to follow all the rules and regulations McDonald gives the subcontractor, which is what you see, the uniforms, design of the resturant, and equipment, and which suppliers the Subcontractor has to order their goods from.
in a sense, McDonald pretty much dictates everything the Subcontractor has to do.
But why would you want to subcontract to McDonalds if you have “no freedom” to what you want?
Well for the simple reason as crusty crab would tell you; Money.
McDonald is a international, well recognised title, where customers already are familiar and have set expectation of it. Meaning you as a Subcontractor gets acces to this humungous Customer base mcdonalad have, you also don’t have to worry about marketting as this is taken care of by McDonald themselves.
So the resturant you run has tons of exposure, is well known, and will get regulars almost immidietly.
You as the subcontractor almost have a “guaranteed” customer base, only limited by geography.
And whatever profits your resturant comes out with, once all the bills and the “royalty” to mcdonalds is paid off, You’re the one sitting with all the bonus ontop. And this only scales the more central and bigger that resturant is.
Say you have 16 million euros in annual revenue.
8 million goes to all the “fixed” bills, such as rent, salaries etc. 4 million goes to all supplies. 1 million to maintance and equitpment, and then the rest is yours. So out of those 16 million euros, you get to take 3 million euros into your own pocket to do whatever you want with. You can either chose to use it on yourself, or do as many will do, use some of it to try “expand” the resturant, increasing the customer base, increasing your revenue, which in the end, increases even more personal profit.
So what does this have anything to do with AoE4 and Relic?
In this case, Relic is the subcontractor.
Meaning, they most likely want to keep the contract and reserve a team of developters to keep developting AoE4 as its regular revenue for them from Microsoft.
Or in worst case, They get replaced by another subcontractor, while the degree of developtment quality can vary, it might become worse (more buggy, slower porduction), but it can just as well go the opposite direction (less buggy, more content)
The Product itself, will be the same.
Just like McDonalds, it dosn’t matter if Joe who owns the local Mcdonald resturant desides to quit and the new owner, Mehmed the Imperial Factory co takes over and decides to churn out free Mango-Smoothies in his menus.
It’s still going to be the same McDonald, serving you the same BigMac’s and Fries. Only difference is that you might get a free Mango-smoothie every now and then (as this is paid from Mehmeds own pocket to try increase the player base)
You get the Idea.
This is pretty basic buisiness practice.
And in the IT sector, its barely any different.
Some of the big Telecom and ISP companies, are just Names. The people running the whole thing is a hodge-podge of different subcontractors.
The ones building the new 5G antennas? Not AT&T, Telenor or whatever your local provide might be.
But a Subcontractor, who runs the servers? Another subcontractor, Who runs the marketting? yet another subcontractors. The only thing the Namesake owner of the Telecom company does, is to pick and choose what subcontractor to use whenever the contract with the previous one is about to run out.