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Most of the fired employees come from the hardware (Steam Box) and mobile divisions

Prepping for the launch of its upcoming Steam Box and expansion onto multiple mobile platforms, gaming giant Valve Corp. is making some major changes to its staff, including firing a number of employees.  The software firm -- which became famous for its Half-Life series, its Source engine, and its Steam game distribution network -- has fired at least 25 employees, according to Gamasutra.  At least eight employees disappeared from a publicly available staff registry, seemingly partially confirming the news.

The casualties include Jeri Ellsworth, a hardware engineer responsible for prototyping the Steam Box controllers, and Jason Holtman, who helped architect the STEAM service and handle developer relations.

The bulk of the cuts appear to be in the hardware and mobile (Android) divisions.  While ostensibly the Steam Box is still on track for a release sometime next year, the cuts raise question about whether Valve is second-guessing the leap into the hardware space.

Gordon from Half Life
Valve is thinning the herd.

Firings are very unusual at Valve.

The Seattle-area company is famous for its outside-the-box management strategy.  There are no bosses, no employee at the company has an official title, and there are no cubicles -- employees migrate their desks around the building to wherever they're working each week in organic fashion.

In the past, most employees who didn't work out left on their own terms without being fired.  Gabe Newell -- who The NYT says is at times referred to as the "CEO" of the company, but only by empty formality -- comments, "I get freaked out any time one person leaves.  It seems like a bug in the system."

Valve employs a little over 300 employees, reportedly, so the cuts may represent as much as 8 percent of the total workforce.  Valve employees told Gamasutra that the company is making "big decisions" and referred to the uncharacteristic firing as "the great cleansing".

Sources: Gamasutra, Develop

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Good for them
By Ammohunt on 2/14/2013 3:39:06 PM , Rating: 2
Most companies are afraid to get rid of dead weight. On the other hand this could have a negative affect on morale for the rest of the workforce.

RE: Good for them
By SlickRoenick on 2/14/2013 4:13:14 PM , Rating: 2
How does a company with bosses actually fire employees?

RE: Good for them
By SlickRoenick on 2/14/2013 4:13:58 PM , Rating: 2
still no edit function gdi...

How does a company with no* bosses actually fire employees?

RE: Good for them
By Ammohunt on 2/14/2013 4:36:18 PM , Rating: 3
I guess they fire each other similar to fission reaction.

RE: Good for them
By scrapsma54 on 2/14/2013 5:01:40 PM , Rating: 3
I guess some one had almost triggered a resonance cascade with the steam box and Gabe Newell was like: Nope, not happening.

RE: Good for them
By Mitch101 on 2/17/2013 10:07:47 AM , Rating: 2
The question is did they hire 10%-15% more staff to develop the product and now that its near complete let a percentage go.

At my company we've hired a few hundred people for a large project and when that project is complete we wont have anything for them to do so there will be a big layoff when the project is near completion.

RE: Good for them
By ebakke on 2/14/2013 6:55:07 PM , Rating: 2
Majority vote?

RE: Good for them
By TakinYourPoints on 2/14/2013 6:56:17 PM , Rating: 2
Despite what the handbook says, there's an implicit hierarchy there. Long time employees have weight, Gabe can certainly fire people, and firings can be a collective effort among employees if somebody is a negative asset no matter what team or project they are on.

RE: Good for them
By Totally on 2/14/2013 10:32:00 PM , Rating: 4
Formal letterhead conspicuously placed on desk that reads:

"You've been voted of the island."

RE: Good for them
By kyleb2112 on 2/16/2013 4:14:20 AM , Rating: 2
Some bosses more equal than others.

RE: Good for them
By Piiman on 2/16/2013 7:38:15 AM , Rating: 2
What company is afraid to get rid of dead weight?
Answer: NONE.

RE: Good for them
By LRonaldHubbs on 2/16/2013 12:44:12 PM , Rating: 2
I'm going to assume you either don't work for a large company or are just oblivious to what happens at the office.

When upper management decrees that no new hiring will occur to ensure the budget is met, a guy who is essentially useless can manage to stay employed simply by doing a small amount of work. Lower management would like to fire him, but they wouldn't be able to hire a replacement and therefore would have to offload his work onto people who are already busy. Because he does a small amount of work it ends up being better to have him around than to fire him, even though in an ideal situation he should just be fired and replaced. This happens more often than you'd think.

RE: Good for them
By Mitch101 on 2/17/2013 10:09:39 AM , Rating: 2
Thats generally if they are brought on as employees but if brought on as contractors for a project its time to cut the cord and cost.

Just finish Half Life 2, PLEASE
By enlil242 on 2/14/2013 3:33:36 PM , Rating: 5
I just wish they finish Episode 3 and conclude Half Life 2. That's all I ask. Valve to me is synonymous with "DELAY" and "WAIT." If I can finish the game I invested so much time and money in, I'd be happy and can be done with this company. I really do not care to hear any more about them unless it's about what I've stated already.

By maugrimtr on 2/15/2013 9:11:19 AM , Rating: 2
I remember HL2. It was one of a handful of games I installed using this newfangled technology called "Steam". Point being that Episode 3 is so far overdue that I doubt it will ever happen. HL3 is more likely but Valve make most of their cash from selling other people's games digitally. I don't doubt that any new HL would be stellar but developing games doesn't seem to be on their priority list.

Surely they need something really compelling to sell on Steam Box? Fingers crossed...

RE: Just finish Half Life 2, PLEASE
By djc208 on 2/15/2013 12:30:11 PM , Rating: 2
Amen! I'm not a huge game player, but they sucked me in with that one and then left me hanging. How can we get Portal 2 already and still no HL2:EP3?!

The only plus side is you can usually expect that if it does come out it will be worth the wait.

RE: Just finish Half Life 2, PLEASE
By Myrandex on 2/15/2013 1:49:39 PM , Rating: 2
This just in...HL2:EP3 is not renamed to Half Life 2 Forever.

RE: Just finish Half Life 2, PLEASE
By Myrandex on 2/15/2013 1:50:09 PM , Rating: 2
now* :(

RE: Just finish Half Life 2, PLEASE
By Mitch101 on 2/17/2013 10:13:46 AM , Rating: 2
I used to be a big fan of HL2 but I would rather have Left 4 Dead 3 but Im sure we will get both.

If your not playing Left 4 Dead especially with all the custom maps and game play your missing out of probably the best games ever. I highly suggest Helms Deep survival map and lets build a rocket.

By terabaSe on 2/18/2013 8:08:18 AM , Rating: 1
If you like mindless, unimaginative shit then maybe L4D is for you. It's basically Gauntlet/Z (or should that be Gauntlet/ZZZzzz...)

By kyleb2112 on 2/16/2013 4:36:08 AM , Rating: 2
They should license it out to another developer. Valve used to do that and we got good games out of it. At this point I would rather have played 6 Half-Life games that rank in the mid 80s, than Gabe Newell's perfect Fabergé egg 20 years in the making. And what are the diminishing returns on time and effort to go from a 92 to a 96 on Metacritic? Too damn high IMO. Gimme a solid 88% and chop off a few years. I just want to go back to that universe. I'm not getting any younger...

By TakinYourPoints on 2/14/2013 6:52:46 PM , Rating: 4
Firings are very unusual at Valve.

That's actually not true. The only thing unusual is the quantity in this case, but people are fired from there all the time. A friend of mine has been working at Valve for about six years now, and protecting the "flat" culture there is a high priority, second only to hiring the right people. Firing employees is one way to protect it, and they actually do that a lot.

Gabe actually came right out and talks about firing people in this panel at UT Austin a few weeks ago:

In response to "what are some problems with this flat hierarchy?", he says "you have to be really aggressive about firing people". Anything that disrupts or drags down the balance has to be fixed or let go. It requires people who are both completely collaborative and totally self-sufficient/self-managing at the same time, very hard to find.

All that said, who knows why exactly some of these people were let go. Bay Raitt made the Source Filmmaker and was an animator on Gollum for LoTR. The business architect for Steam was let go. The designer of the XBox 360 controller was let go. Moby Francke, the visual designer of Team Fortress 2 and Half Life 2, let go.

These are all clearly very talented people that will have no problem finding work elsewhere. I suspect the decision to let all those people go was cultural rather than due to performance. We'll never know why, Valve isn't going to say anything and the people fired are all professionals that will keep their mouths shut.

RE: Firings
By TakinYourPoints on 2/14/2013 7:01:30 PM , Rating: 2
It should also be said that even after these layoffs, they are still a much larger company than they were one year ago, 400 employees as opposed to the 250-300 that they were.

When I was there last summer they were adding yet another floor to the office. Layoffs due to budget cuts clearly aren't the reason, not when they're growing at the rate that they are.

RE: Firings
By Wererat on 2/15/2013 9:29:32 AM , Rating: 3
Yep, I suspect some people have come, done the thing they came to do, and left on good terms. Nothing wrong with that.

We're just all used to the idea that people have 'a position' and scurry about finding things to do in that position when the thing we were first hired to do gets done.

are these
By Bonesdad on 2/14/2013 11:12:03 PM , Rating: 2
really FIRINGS or were they just laid off?? Firing denotes non or incompetent performance of duties. Laying off is a business decision, not necessarily based on performance. The difference is not subtle. Which is it?

RE: are these
By GatoRat on 2/15/2013 10:07:51 AM , Rating: 2
Technically, involuntarily leaving a company is being fired, even if the euphemism "lay off" is used (aside from the narrow case of seasonal or cyclical work where a "lay off" is a temporary condition and the company will hire you back.)

The distinction is being "Fired for Cause" or "Fired without Cause". I prefer going back to this terminology since far too many "lay offs" are what incompetent managers make to get rid of people they don't personally like. I've been "laid off" (Fired without Cause) several times and when I looked at the other people fired at the same time, it was almost an honor to be counted among such a group.

(Do note that I did work for a company which survived only by a massive reduction in employees and which did a very good job at starting with the most incompetent. They did blunder in laying off two very effective employees, but hired one back almost immediately when just about everyone complained. That was unusual.)

Valve is shooting themselves in the foot
By GatoRat on 2/15/2013 9:58:00 AM , Rating: 1
One of the rules of business is to stick to your niche. The temptation to "diversify" is strong, but rarely succeeds. One problem is that it almost always costs a lot more than anticipated and that money drains resources from existing, profit centers. In Valve's case, they have some extremely lucrative intellectual properties which they have, for all intents and purposes, abandoned. Valve's almost open antipathy to what made it successful--Half Life--is astonishing. Portal is one of the most innovative games ever, yet Valve has done relatively little with it.

My observation is that Valve is a poorly run company that largely exists for the sake of existing. It's Gabe Newell's hobby.

By Piiman on 2/16/2013 7:50:17 AM , Rating: 2
If thats the case (and I doubt it is) then I say good for Gabe. A hobby where you can make millions of $$ and give jobs to 400+ people is one hell of a hobby. We need more hobbist like him.

By Fidget on 2/15/2013 10:31:04 AM , Rating: 3
Thanks for your work on our new Steam Box, now GTFO.

Smithers, release the hounds!

This is different
By vision33r on 2/15/2013 12:31:21 PM , Rating: 2
In the software business, firing more than 5% doesn't bold well for the direction of the business.

This is not IT or web ecommerce site where you have turnovers routinely.

Valve is content driven, so any of their folks being let go could mean they are changing direction from content creation to wholesale like Amazon.

That could mean that Valve is not going towards game development and move towards licensing and game publishing.

By NellyFromMA on 2/14/2013 3:46:32 PM , Rating: 1
So, Gabe hates Microsoft for its muddling around with an open-world, so on his way to crusading to save the day he had do sacrifice 8% of his work force? Not even repurpose them, just lay them off?

Idk, I'm all for more competition, but I don't see Valve having anywhere near the success competing against the likes of Microsoft and Sony as he has by playing nice with them.

Stick to what you know Gabe, because honestly, your new foray looks likes its off to a strange start.

Just my two.

RE: Hmmm
By Reclaimer77 on 2/14/13, Rating: -1
Well someone's gotta pay for the whale to eat..
By DukeN on 2/14/13, Rating: -1
By ClownPuncher on 2/14/2013 3:53:42 PM , Rating: 3
Short sighted, eh?

By NellyFromMA on 2/14/2013 4:03:36 PM , Rating: 1
I think so. It's an opinion obviously. I was reading his interview or whatnot from I guess CES where he was outlining his vision which didn't really sound too different than what the passed 10 years for the PC space have been.

Personally, I like steam although when it first released it was a TOTAL PILE OF CRAP. That said, it has evolved nicely.

However, Steam absolutely could exist in an RT or iOS world. He doesn't want to because essentially he is having an inferiority complex. That's what I draw from his comments.

The only one non-blah part of his vision is regarding new interfaces / inputs, however even in this regard no new input has come out that has ENHANCED gaming. Maybe there will be one, almost surely even.

When that breakthroug will happen, idk. That breakthrough could happen without Gabe's little pout shout though.

Valve can make great games, even though they're only made one phenomenal one and a bunch of little good ones. There service is good, but do I think the Steam box is going to somehow save gaming? Not right now; he instills no confidence in me.

So, yes, I gather from his vision that my nephew could have also thought a new input would supercede keyboard, mouse touch and controller. But he, like Gabe, probably doesn' tknow what its going to be.

RE: Well someone's gotta pay for the whale to eat..
By jwcalla on 2/15/2013 1:46:16 AM , Rating: 2
Steam absolutely could exist in an RT or iOS world

How so? Third-party stores are prohibited on those platforms.

RE: Well someone's gotta pay for the whale to eat..
By Visual on 2/15/2013 7:18:48 AM , Rating: 2
A single "app" downloaded through the official store, which treats games as extra content, not separate "apps", billing you with the available in-app purchase feature, etc? That still gives a large cut of the profits to MS/Apple so is a drawback, but is at least possible.

Also, both platforms' sideloading restrictions can be easily circumvented technically. As to the legal side of things... I don't know. I personally feel the restrictions imposed by Apple/MS on my legally bought personal device go against any logic, fair use, etc. I should be able to do anything and run any software on my property. And this should be easy to win in court the first time anyone grows the balls to actually take it there.

By Wererat on 2/15/2013 9:15:15 AM , Rating: 2
Yep, some of these exist in the gamespace now; the free app serves as a portal (pun very intended) to additional content.

A non-gaming example would be the Wired app which give you nothing itself, unless you use the app to subsequently purchase and read issues of Wired.

By NellyFromMA on 2/15/2013 2:12:35 PM , Rating: 2
In App sales are permissible for a a cut in both iOS and WinRT.

By Milliamp on 2/15/2013 2:22:39 AM , Rating: 2
I think they have made more than just one phenomenal game.

Half Life, Portal, Left 4 Dead, Team Fortress, and Counter Strike are all phenomenal.

Not only are they great but they have brought some original ideas with hem as well.

Dota 2 looks like it will be good too but class balance is something that is really difficult to master.

I wasn't sure about steam when I first tried it either but now I love it.

Valve itself is a phenomenal company with very little management overhead and the way they just kind of let people do what they are passionate about. They have a large freight elevator and they put wheels on desks and let people mostly just wheel their desk around and work on what ever team they want. It is a very different kind of company.

I'm not ashamed to admit I'm rooting for them to succeed.

By Milliamp on 2/15/2013 2:33:53 AM , Rating: 2
Replying to update, but I wanted to respond to you criticizing their future strategy as too similar to the last 10 years.

What is so wrong with PC gaming right now? I'm buying a lot of really good games and I think I'm getting a lot of value.

The problem is companies are trying to shut out valve by controlling the whole environment and all software sales for their platform. Valve who is mostly just looking for a means to keep distributing games is absolutely the good guy in this.

By NellyFromMA on 2/15/2013 2:17:51 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not really saying PC gaming is somehow not ok in its current state.

What i AM saying is that Gabe's vision does not differ in any meaningul way, other than defining a couple of Hardware tiers that could very easily already be done today and all games support configuration of video settings so non-issue as it stands.

My point is that just because WinRT and iOS are options doesn't mean Windows 7 and 8 and OS X have suddenly vanished and we'll never see them again.

Consumers will decide that, and I just doubt they will decide en masse to abandon those platforms. We just need lighter mobile Os'es not replacements for our full-fledged systems.

Gabe wants to paint the picture that the sky is falling, but its not. He only thinks so and is trying to ride a train of controvery that frankly doesn't actually exist.

Valve can sell game instore. MANY APPS on iOS and WinRT to this. Its allowed. How dare they want a peice of the pie you say? Different topic altogether.

Saying Steam cannot exist in these envorinments is a lie. Saying GGabe's vision for gaming and computing is somehow different than whats already been out there is also not true.

Explain to me what Valve is going to do to fundementally change gaming? Maybe someone can do that without downrating me to hide the truth lol

By NellyFromMA on 2/15/2013 2:31:55 PM , Rating: 2
Also, don't get me wrong; I don't hate Valve or Steam, as I mentioned before.

Rather, I think Gabe is not suited to carry through the vision he outlines and don't personally beleive its ambitious compared to the state of PC gaming as it currently has been for 10 years.

Ironically, I find it only ambitous in the sense that it is so outside of Valve's strong suit and after following up on details thusfar, I'm very unconvinced that there's even a need for a Steam box other than Gabe's ego being shunted by the world evolving around him.

It's an opinion. One I'm not ashamed to have either. Do I want Steam to succeed, sure why not. I don't care if they do or don't all that much because frankly Id on't think they've done anything so amazing that they are somehow a leader in gaming.

Bottom line is Gabe is angry because if he wants to expand into the mobile space, he's gonna have to pay Apple or MS a peice of the pie because thats where mobile is trending and infact already at. He doesn't like this because he has no alternative, so he's trying to make an option for himself. Great. Do I think he's going to execute it well. No.

By NellyFromMA on 2/15/2013 2:22:07 PM , Rating: 2
Like I said, a couple of phenominal games and a couple of small good ones.

Half-life phenominal. Left 4 Dead good enough hardly phenominal (you know, you have to earn that in my book). Counterstrike, a small good game with a cult following. I played CS for a LONG time when it was new and when it wasn't anymore and while it was fun, it was never phenominal.

Saying Left 4 dead and CS are phenominal and in the same class as Halflife just isn't true to me. It's an opinion and you're entitled to yours for sure as I am mine.

Are Left 4 Dead and CS good games, even great? Depends who you are. L4D is good IMO, CS is great FOR WHAT IT WAS, which was a small little mod. Thats what Valve does.

Little mods become slightly bigger stand alone games. They do this way more often than release blockbusters like Half life, forwhich only that series stands out as phenominal to me.

Hopefully I've made my points more clear, but I suspect people (not you necessarily) are just repulsed by opinions that differ from their own 'facts'.

RE: Well someone's gotta pay for the whale to eat..
By Piiman on 2/16/2013 8:18:35 AM , Rating: 2
Your point is only your opinion and what YOU thought of their games.
My opinion of their games is totally different than your, go figure.

In short your opinion of their games is not nessarily what the masses think. (nor or mine for that matter)

By TakinYourPoints on 2/17/2013 11:30:47 PM , Rating: 2
All this and rarely ever a mention of DOTA 2 around these parts.

Bunch of casuals all up in here. ;)

Dead weight
By HrilL on 2/14/13, Rating: -1
RE: Dead weight
By FITCamaro on 2/15/2013 8:09:58 AM , Rating: 3
I think you need to read who some of these guys were.

RE: Dead weight
By drycrust3 on 2/16/2013 9:40:08 PM , Rating: 1
Face it these people were probably dead weight.

You have no idea why these people were let go. As we saw after the death of Steve Jobs, one of his favourites was given the boot because he was too highly innovative. Another highly innovative person at Microsoft was also given the heave ho about the same time.
It could be some of these people were just too innovative for the management, so they were told to clear their desks. If that is the case, then the problem Valve faces is their management wouldn't know the loss their anti-innovation drive has cost them.

"We shipped it on Saturday. Then on Sunday, we rested." -- Steve Jobs on the iPad launch

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