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Valve Responds to Reports of Mass Layoff; Projects on Track

After a report went live stating that Jeri Ellsworth and around 24 other employees of Valve Software were let go, Gamasutra received news that Valve's director of business development Jason Holtman was part of that list. Even more, a comparison between the current employee directory and one stored last month by the Internet Archive shows that nine are no longer currently listed.

According to the original report, affected employees were asked not to speak about the specifics. But there's speculation that the cuts weren't made over performance issues (as in Valve is cutting the slackers), but that the cuts are driven by "company challenges".

 The biggest surprise cut was Jeri Ellsworth who not too long ago was publicly talking about Valve's hardware efforts. She worked in the studio's year-old hardware division and indicated that hardware testing would actually begin in 2013. This division was working in tandem with Steam's Big Picture Mode, creating a hardware solution to the control-based limitations found in many titles offered on Valve's Steam platform.

So with Ellsworth out of the picture, does that mean Valve's hardware plans have been canned too (outside Piston)? No. According to Valve bossman Gabe Newell, all projects remain in active development.

"We don't usually talk about personnel matters for a number of reasons," Newell told Engadget. "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," he continued. "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."

Engadget said that Valve reps would not confirm or deny the layoffs at Valve, nor would they comment on the confirmed exit of Ellsworth. The site also points out that we've already seen Valve in action on the hardware side this year at CES 2013 with its Piston project in association with Xi3 Corporation. The company is also slated to reveal its VR plans this year at the Game Developer's Conference next month.

Still, what's the big staff purge all about? As stated on Wednesday, it's unusual to associate the words "fired" and "layoff" with the Half-Life developer -- it's a peculiar predicament for such a secretive, lucrative studio. Perhaps we'll know more before the whistle officially closes the week on Friday.

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  • vir_cotto
    Woohoo Half-life still on track for 2025?
  • alvine
    come on valve give us half life ep 3
  • icemunk
    Business cycles. Sales rise and fall. A company that thinks it can grow forever, is destined to crash.
  • Kami3k
    10436550 said:
    Business cycles. Sales rise and fall. A company that thinks it can grow forever, is destined to crash.

    Except money isn't the reason, fail.
  • tolham
    "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 ."

    if purging 25 employees doesn't change anything, then what the hell were those people doing?
  • icemunk
    Kami3kExcept money isn't the reason, fail.
    My bad, I'm in investment/business mode at the moment
  • gm0n3y
    Its hard to imagine that Valve had to let them go for monetary reasons as they make piles of cash with Steam. Maybe they had just been hiring for too long and felt the need to slim down (i.e. getting rid of employee redundancy).
  • atavax
    do we even know that 25 people have been fired? The impression i got was the only one we know for sure is Jeri Ellisworth; the 24 other people that might of been fired and rumored and we don't know.

    Also, i am fairly relieved by this news. I'm getting older and gaming is becoming a more casual part of my life and i can definately see myself getting a console in the future instead of pc and both microsoft and sony's consoles don't look particularly appealing. At least Valve seems to understand that they are providing a service and giving the customer the best possible experience trumps everything else.
  • senkasaw
    hmmm...sounds to me like there was a big after-hours office orgy. Hence all the hush hush.
  • kinggraves
    Valve doesn't have a lot of employees, 25 is a decent chunk of their workforce. There is a difference between "everything's not on the same schedule" and "everything is canceled". Businesses are not going to say they're off track unless there's a solid release date to adhere to. They aren't going to say anything is canned until they're ready to can it. Their hardware has no time frame to stick to, so they can't be off schedule of a project with no public schedule. I cannot imagine things are going to be just the same unless a company of 400 hired 25 extra people to make coffee.

    But a bit of patience will pay off. If they hire new people for those positions then the terminations were because those people were an issue. If they aren't rehired, then Valve had some extra employees to cut. Any successful business has to cut off dead weight. Why would they make cuts NOW though when they're clearly forging ahead with ambitious new projects? The people that were cut were the exact positions that would be working with this project.