Following news last night that Valve fired engineer Jeri Ellsworth, it appears that Valve may be undergoing a more extensive staff cut in its Android and hardware development departments. Gamasutra says it has confirmed that several employees were let go from the company behind Half-Life, Portal, and Steam, and that up to 25 employees may have been cut — Valve employees described the changes as a "great cleansing" and that Valve is dealing with "large decisions."
The cuts include at least one key staff member
Valve appears to have indirectly confirmed today's departures; its staff directory shows eight fewer employees than were listed in a snapshot of the page a month earlier. The list includes several game artists, and the cuts include at least one key staff member; Develop reported earlier today that Jason Holtman, Valve's director of business development and one of the architects behind the highly-successful Steam digital distribution platform, is among those leaving. Holtman's name has been removed from Valve's staff page as of today.
The cuts could be deeper than those reflected on Valve's staff page. Jeri Ellsworth, for instance, was never listed on Valve's staff page despite working in its hardware labs. Less than a third of Valve's total staff are listed on its public directory.
Valve has already been making some large decisions that will impact the future of the company. It has been developing a console-like gaming PC called the Steam Box that's intended to compete with consoles from Microsoft and Sony; a serious undertaking that will require Valve to work outside of its comfort zone as a software developer. Today's rumored staff cuts could be related to the company's effort to push forward in the hardware space, though many of the changes appear unrelated to hardware development.
Firings at Valve are rare, and the company has barely any formal organizational structure; despite having more than 300 employees, Valve famously operates without traditional "bosses." As PC Gamer reported, the company uses a peer-driven process to fire staff. "If it turns out that we made a bad hiring decision, or that somebody is just not working out, there's a method we use to get the people who are involved in the same room and to walk through the decision about what should really happen as a result of this person not functioning very well," Valve Product Designer Greg Coomer told PC Gamer.
Valve has yet to officially confirm the staff cuts. We've requested comment from the company on the situation and will fill you in if we receive an explanation.