"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 cancelling 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.”
And that’s it. It’s a reassuring response, but it all but confirms that the reported layoffs have, in fact, taken place after all.]
Valve has one of the highest employee retention rates in the entire video game industry – and just a few years ago, their Jobs page touted a 98% retention rate. But though we haven’t really heard of any significant layoffs from the company, ever since its inception, that doesn’t mean they don’t fire people at all. In fact, according to Gabe Newell (in his first talk at the LBJ School of Public Affairs in Austin), due to Valve’s inherently flat structure and hierarchy, they have to be really aggressive about firing people, and he adds that they haven’t done a very good job with interims or new employees.
But again, we’ve never really seen that process in action. Well, until now.
According to an exclusive report from Gamasutra, a number of developers were laid off from Valve yesterday. Though they could not confirm the exact number of staff that were let go, it could be as many as 25 employees (a significant figure for a company with 350-400 total employees), and affected employees described the layoffs as a “great cleansing“, and the circumstances surrounding it as “large decisions“.
Apparently, the layoffs may have been driven primarily by company challenges, and were not limited to a single development team. Gamasutra specifies that hardware and Android development, in particular, was among the departments affected. Among the devs laid off was Jeri Ellsworth, perhaps the first hardware engineer hired by Valve, back in mid-2011. Yesterday, she tweeted that she had just been fired from Valve, and was now pursuing entirely new projects (later on, she even tweeted a picture of all the pinball machines she had brought to Valve, presumably about to be removed from the building):
Yup.Got fired today.Time for new exciting projects.
— Jeri Ellsworth (@jeriellsworth) February 13, 2013
Meanwhile, the LinkedIn profile of Ed Owen, another hardware engineer hired by Valve last year, shows that his employment there as ending in February 2013 (as spotted by ValveTime). Another possible departure would be Olivier Nallet, whose LinkedIn profile also shows his employment at Valve ending in February 2013 (though he was not a member of the hardware development team, and was hired back in mid-2010).
And even more disconcertingly, quite a few employee entries that used to be on the People page of Valve’s official website are no longer there – entries that were still on that list, as of 5th February, little over a week ago, as this web cache of the page clearly shows. However, keep in mind that not all Valve developers employed there are on that list (Jeri, for instance, was never on there), and this is has always been the case – so this is not a definitive, completely accurate list of who exactly has been laid off.
These are the now missing entries, 8 in total:
- Moby Francke, hired in 2002 (art director on Team Fortress 2, character designer on Half-Life 2)
- Bay Raitt, hired in 2004 (lead developer on the Source Filmmaker and animator/artist on a number of Valve games)
- Realm Lovejoy, hired in 2005 (one of Portal’s original creators, artist and creator of the Companion Cube)
- Marc Nagel, hired in 2008 (lead on Quality Assurance/playtesting)
- Tom Leonard, hired in 2002 (lead developer on Left 4 Dead 2, senior game programmer, and an instrumental figure in the development of the Half-Life 2 series)
- Keith Huggins, hired in 2006 (animator on Team Fortress 2)
- Elan Ruskin, hired in 2006 (engine programmer on a number of Valve’s games)
- Matthew Russell, hired in 2006 (animator on a number of Valve’s games, and the TF2 “Meet the Team” series)
And according to a separate report by Develop, Valve’s director of business development Jason Holtman has just left the company, for reasons unknown. He had worked at the company since 2005 and played a significant role in relations with third-party developers and publishers within the Steam space. He is also the ninth developer to no longer be listed on Valve’s People page… and his departure is the most disconcerting of all, I think.
It’s also worth noting that Bay Raitt has actually just confirmed he’s no longer employed by Valve, on his personal Facebook account:
In total, 12 developers have been confirmed as no longer with Valve – but according to Gamasutra, 13 others may have been laid off within the same, single targeted layoff, which took place just yesterday.
This is very peculiar, to say the least. We’ll keep you posted on any further developments, and LambdaGeneration would like to wish all those affected by the layoffs at Valve the very best in the future.