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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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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.

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