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Valve loses director of business, other layoffs reported

UPDATE: Valve president Gabe Newell says company isn't "changing any priorities".

Update

Valve president Gabe Newell told Engadget that the company is not shifting priorities despite the reported layoffs, but refused to comment further.

"We don't usually talk about personnel matters for a number of reasons. There seems to be an unusual amount of speculation about some recent changes here, so I thought I'd take the unusual step of addressing them. No, we aren't canceling any projects. No, we aren't changing any priorities or projects we've been discussing. No, this isn't about Steam or Linux or hardware or [insert game name here]. We're not going to discuss why anyone in particular is or isn't working here," said Newell in a statement.

Original story

Earlier this morning, GamesIndustry International reported the confirmed firing of Valve hardware engineer Jeri Ellsworth, who announced the news via Twitter. Now Develop is reporting that Valve director of business Jason Holtman has left the company, according to a reliable anonymous source. Much like Ellsworth's firing, there is no visibility on why Holtman has left the company.

Gamasutra independently confirmed that several employees were let go from the company, with multiple departments affected.

A quick look at Valve's current employee page shows that a number of names have been removed. Garry's Mod creator Garry Newman used a web tool to compare the page's current text with a previous version. The names removed include the aforementioned Holtman, lead visual designer Moby Francke from the Team Fortress 2 team, senior developer Tom Leonard, developer Elan Ruskin, animator Keith Huggins, artist Realm Lovejoy, lead tester Marc Nagel, artist Bay Raitt from the Source Filmmaker team, and animator Matthew Russell. Outside of Holtman, none of the others have been confirmed as laid off.

GamesIndustry International has not received confirmation from Valve about the possible layoffs.

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Latest comments (19)

@Mike - very forensic of you guys to catch the web page modification. I wonder why so mysterious - they are not a listed company so why act as if releasing basic confirmation would be breaking a "state secret"!
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Adam Coate CEO & Founder, Coate Games3 years ago
"There seems to be an unusual amount of speculation about some recent changes here, so I thought I'd take the unusual step of addressing them".

The only thing unusual is what's going on at Valve with the recent firings. Mutiny perhaps?
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 3 years ago
It seems (judging from various tweets) that it was an expected Day Of Doom. Most likely is a wide-ranging performance review/future projects review. One of the TF2 character designers was let go, which given TF2 material from Valve has mostly dried up seems to make sense, for example.

I do think talk of a "mutiny" is just spurious gossip for its own sake, though.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 14th February 2013 8:46am

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Show all comments (19)
Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 3 years ago
More companies should do this. Periodically evaluate their operations and cut off the bloat.
For the company it ensures efficiency, competitiveness and, ultimately, survival.
For the individual it ensures that they are not wasting their life doing something unnecessary and can move on to something more rewarding.
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Adam Coate CEO & Founder, Coate Games3 years ago
To be honest I would like to see Valve go down in flames before it inevitably becomes the next Microsoft or Apple. Seriously, Gabe Newell talks about how much he dislikes Microsoft for wanting to close off Windows...and his response is what? To make his own closed platform? What a benevolent dictator he is! All game developers should bow before him!

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Adam Coate on 14th February 2013 9:05am

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Andrew Animator 3 years ago
More companies should do this. Periodically evaluate their operations and cut off the bloat.
They should avoid the bloat in the first place, if a company needs to scale for short to medium term goals staff should be hired on that premise as contract staff.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Andrew on 14th February 2013 9:26am

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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 3 years ago
@Adam
Curation is another issue. The notion of a global gatekeeper for stores is a pre-internet way of thinking for distribution, Newell said. They still need to worry about viruses and people distributing content they don't own the rights to, but the more they can strip away the rest of the curatorial duties, the better.
http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2013-02-07-console-transitions-bad-for-gaming-says-newell
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Adam Coate CEO & Founder, Coate Games3 years ago
Morville, so he plans on allowing people to use the Steam API without paying Valve a royalty? Because that's what he wants out of Windows. Just pointing out his hypocrisy is all. I'm aware of what he has been saying.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 3 years ago
Who knows what he wants? Until it's actually revealed, it seems... short-sighted and slightly malicious to call hypocrisy.
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Adam Coate CEO & Founder, Coate Games3 years ago
It's quite clear he wants to monopolize digital game distribution. He wants a royalty on every game sold on the internet. And he resents Microsoft for trying to prevent him from that end. My analysis is actually the opposite of short-sighted, but free will grants you the right to make judgmental remarks.
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Alexandros Gekas Co- Founder, Editor, Ragequit.gr3 years ago
That... really doesn't seem like a realistic portrayal of current events. Are you saying that Microsoft is some sort of 'hero', out to save us from a possible Valve domination? Microsoft is quite a bit bigger than Valve, if anything they are in a better position to enact the policy you mention.
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Adam Coate CEO & Founder, Coate Games3 years ago
I am in no way glorifying Microsoft. They are merely trying to beat Valve to the punch. And do not underestimate Valve. They have enough capital to where they could launch their own OS and compete directly with Microsoft if they wanted.
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http://www.onlinemba.com/blog/art-of-firing-valve-way

However I don't think they'll have any problems finding new applicants, after all the handbook made it look like such a great place to work ;-)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by John Owens on 14th February 2013 10:25am

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Tom Edwards Game & Level Designer, Programmer 3 years ago
@Adam: using the Steam API is already completely free. Valve only take a cut from sales through the Steam store. If you make a sale anywhere else you don't pay a thing.
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Nick Parker Consultant 3 years ago
Who knows what is the internal company culture instilled by Gabe and how he adapts it to its growth stages? Who knows how content staff are with this culture or whether management are ruthless in executing it. Valve haa achieved a lot in a short period of time and we shouldn't forget that a company needs the right people for each stage of the journey. Those that are there during the early growth stages may not appreciate the progress into a more corporate environment and management may not wish to keep these potential problem children.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Nick Parker on 14th February 2013 5:26pm

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Adam Jordan Community Management/Moderation 3 years ago
Main question is...does this affect Half Life 3?

Conspiracy Theory: These people wanted to finish Half Life 3 but Gabe said "NOPE!" and fired them before they could touch it /end conspiracy theory
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Examine the types of individuals released....Bus. Dev. Dir. to Tester. This is simply a long over due cleansing of various individuals that no longer fit in with the prevailing attitudes and directions. Contrary to popular opinion, Valve is a business....Not an academic dreamworld with tenure and life time positions. This will serve to remind those who remain that all of the old fashioned qualities required of employees.....productivity, creativity, enthusiasm, loyalty and dedication...are still part of the studio's culture and extraordinary success hasn't changed that. ( Posted by: Robert G. Stanton, Sr.- Founder, TSC )

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Grant Stanton on 14th February 2013 10:55pm

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Meelad Sadat [a]list daily editorial director, Ayzenberg Group3 years ago
@kevin williams - it's the other way around. listed companies have an obligation to announce senior management changes and layoffs. private firms do not.
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@Bruce. Nothing personal but I feel for the guys that work at the same company as you with that sort of public rhetoric. It does nothing to build loyalty and a team spirit to talk about people in a dispensable fashion. Exactly the reason Valve do not discuss individual human resource related matters in public.

Working with the people you've got and expanding their knowledge is the sign of a good manager. My advice is, be an active manager, if you consider yourself one. Something that's in very short supply in this industry, in my experience.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Sandy Lobban on 15th February 2013 2:47pm

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