Valve ‘fires’ prototype engineer, 25 laid off, Holtman exits – report

Wednesday, 13th February 2013 08:36 GMT By Staff

Valve has fired hardware engineer Jeri Ellsworth, according to a tweet on her personal feed. Also, further sources indicate a total of 25 employees have been laid off, and another report states Valve’s director of business, Jason Holtman has left, but neither of these two reports can be confirmed by Valve as of press time.

Ellsworth – known for creating a Commodore 64 emulator within a joystick – posted that she had been released from Valve this morning, and has since posted no further information.

GamesIndustry reports that the hacker and engineer joined the Seattle-based company in August 2011 and worked within the studio’s hardware team to develop next-generation prototypes. The site adds that Ellsworth’s known projects included Steam Big Picture mode and wearable computing tech.

The Quarter to Three forum indicates at 25 other employees were laid off as well, and other sources point to lay-offs in the firm’s Android division.

According to a source close to Develop, Steam boss Jason Holtman has left the company, and the reason for his departure is “unclear” at this time. He has been with Valve since 2005.

Meanwhile, PCgamesN has a running list of employees who have been removed from the current staff page.

In the wake of the news, several rumours have broken suggesting Vave is shutting down projects and refocusing on new ones. Valve has been quiet on the matter, but founder Gabe Newell told Engadget that reports of a new focus are greatly exaggerated.

“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,” he said.

“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 [insert game name here]. We’re not going to discuss why anyone in particular is or isn’t working here.”

Thanks ffronw.



  1. xxJPRACERxx


    #1 2 years ago
  2. silkvg247

    People generally don’t get fired unless they’ve done something to seriously breach company policy. If she were made redundant, that’d be a different thing.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Dave Cook

    @1 Someone’s lost their job. Why is that funny? :/

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Levester

    @1 lol i agree lol
    @3 lol

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Dave Cook

    @2 Not necessarily at Valve. You can be fired for not creating enough of what they call ‘shippable’ content on a monthly basis. The pressure’s on employees to keep creating, which is obviously a hard thing for anyone to do at a company that forward-thinking.

    Read the handbook dude, it’s genuinely interesting, but also kind of scary :)

    @1 & 4 – morons, the pair of you.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. unacomn

    Hmm, maybe Valve decided to completely outsource the Steambox idea.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. friendlydave

    Hmm I wonder what she done, if anything.

    @6 Maybe…

    @Dave “You can be fired for not creating enough of what they call ‘shippable’ content on a monthly basis” Still, if she couldn’t do her job she deserved to be fired, I can’t feel bad for her at all. I will imagine she will find new work somewhere pretty quickly.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. RandomTiger

    I’m sure she’ll love that you used that photo.
    How does getting fired work in a flat hierarchy?

    #8 2 years ago
  9. mkotechno

    Or maybe realized they overstimated her knowledge because is hot, and not really worth her salary.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. Dave Cook

    @8 They cut fat whenever an area of the business isn’t required I’m guessing. It seems really cut-throat. Your colleagues essentially vote how much you should be paid at the end of each month based on the vale you’ve brought to the company. Their company handbook calls it ‘compensation’, not ‘wage’.

    So if they feel you’re no longer needed, you get nothing. Or the chop it seems.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. RandomTiger

    @9 Or perhaps wearable computing tech isn’t going anywhere.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. TheBlackHole


    Come on Dave, you know that’s all bullshit, right?

    Everyone there has a salary negotiated when they join, just like any other job. They don’t work on different wage every month (unless bonuses are involved), although they do have an annual peer review.

    The handbook is a fun read, but it’s mostly fiction designed to make things sound more interesting.

    #12 2 years ago
  13. Dave Cook

    @12 How do any of us know if it’s bullshit or not? Do you have a source dude? I’m just keeping an open mind to the possibilities here :)

    #13 2 years ago
  14. heroes159

    I’d really love to know the reason for this

    #14 2 years ago
  15. silkvg247

    Nobody will get sacked for not producing “shippable” content, especially if they are responsible for prototypes (which aren’t shippable product anyway!)

    I don’t know about the US, but in the UK I see useless plebs get promoted to managers because it’s easier than sacking them due to all our protection laws. I guess the US doesn’t have those, and maybe they can sack useless people “just because”?

    So she was sacked because she was useless or because she was snogging someone at work. Place your bets! Oh that reminds me, we once had a dude get sacked because he was caught giving a BJ in the carpark, lul.

    #15 2 years ago
  16. Dave Cook

    @16 I’m not sure dude, if I just stopped doing news on the site, I’d get sacked. Isn’t that still the same workload issue? I’m not sure. Not arguing with you btw, just exploring the possibilities with the group :)

    And that’s pretty funny :P Why would anyone do that in the carpark?

    #16 2 years ago
  17. ianos


    A wage/salary is often called compensation. As in you are compensated for giving your time, effort and energy to the company. That doesn’t mean it’s negotiated monthly, unless you’re on a non-guaranteed contract/freelance rate.

    Valve isn’t insane – it wouldn’t be able to get as many staff as it has if it didn’t offer people guaranteed salaries.

    #17 2 years ago
  18. Dave Cook

    @18 That makes perfect sense man, I didn’t know that was a term used widely in the States :)

    #18 2 years ago
  19. RandomTiger

    @18 They could just give them minimum wage and the rest is bonus based. If what I understand is true a Valve employee would almost always get a bonus as long as you are seen to be doing work / providing value. The amount of bonus money and benefits will be very high, well above industry norms even on a bad month, enough to ensure staff don’t have to worry about financial security etc.

    Just because its not normal doesn’t mean it cant exist, isn’t that the whole thing about Valve, the way they were funded in the beginning meant they could setup shop in a totally different way to everyone else.

    #19 2 years ago
  20. Old MacDonald

    Hm, and here I thought Valve was the bastion of awesomeness.

    #20 2 years ago
  21. Telepathic.Geometry

    I seem to remember Gabe talking about this VERY recently (maybe on Nerdist?) where he said one of the down-sides of their ‘anarchic’ business practices was that everybody was assessed regularly in terms of their productivity (which could be measured in terms of amount of code written, or perceived consumer value or whatever) and that as a consequence, the firing process was pretty brutal, sink or swim…

    He also said that a lot of people don’t survive the adjustment period…

    #21 2 years ago
  22. Dave Cook

    @22 Yep I remember he said all of this himself. It was in his University of Texas lecture a few weeks ago. It sounds like a crazy / daunting place to work.

    #22 2 years ago
  23. Dragon246

    I really don’t care. Valve fires one employee, so?
    Silk is not dude ;)

    #23 2 years ago
  24. Dave Cook

    @24 I call everyone ‘dude’, regardless of gender :) It’s silly I know.

    #24 2 years ago
  25. DrDamn

    Depending on the State I think US employment law can be very favourable to the employer rather than the employee. So yes you can be sacked “just because”.

    #25 2 years ago
  26. TheBlackHole

    Dave, I work with Valve (not for them) on a fairly regular basis.

    The constant assessment thing is more about development staff than commercial staff. You can’t really assess how much value a busdev manager is bringing to the company by presenting a slideshow (for example), but they still keep their job.

    I think it’s more the case that people are called to account for being slow, unproductive, lazy, or generally just carry a negative attitude about what they’re doing – not uncommon in games companies where productivity goes largely unchecked.

    And, like any company, there are leads for each area, and they are compensated for being in that role – the difference is that it isn’t necessarily a permanent position – making the lead positions flexible/temporary keeps everyone on their toes and means that in order to remain in a senior position you have to work your nuts off.

    It’s different, sure, but not as unusual as it first sounds.

    #26 2 years ago
  27. Dave Cook

    @27 thanks for clarifying dude, that’s very interesting. it’s hard to know what’s what with so many rumours flying around about the way Valve works internally :)

    #27 2 years ago
  28. ps3fanboy

    i know Jeri Ellsworth and she ain’t no a4 personality. she is very smart and have some very wacky ideas, she always think outside the box. she is definite not a person you would call a ‘normal’ employee with ‘normal’ working hours. i guess jeri’s ‘playing’ have just become to expensive for valve. but if you want greatness you cant put a budget on prototype engineering.

    i guess gabe have got cold feet and don’t want to take over the world with his steambox anymore….

    #28 2 years ago
  29. Digital Bamboo

    I didn’t realize Kaylee Frye worked for Valve…what a shame.

    #29 2 years ago
  30. Clupula

    I think we all can learn a lesson from this:

    Gabe always gets the last six donuts.

    #30 2 years ago
  31. salarta

    Neat. Discussion about reasons for her firing have descended into such gems as implying she was useless, lazy or got on the bad side of someone she was sleeping with.

    We don’t know why she was fired. While it IS fun to speculate, unless we actively know what she’s been working on over the past several months and how she’s gone about it, it’s a little soon to assume her firing was entirely her fault. The only reason we’re able to condemn the likes of Motomu Toriyama is that we actually have projects he’s completed and comments he’s made in interviews to back them up.

    #31 2 years ago
  32. Phoenixblight


    In Texas we have a right to work law which gives the employer the power to fire you for any reason. It is one of the reasons why lot of companies flock to this state not to mention this state has the least laws for worker rights.

    #32 2 years ago
  33. DSB

    @2 Valve is a “flat” organization, which means there’s no hierarchy, no bosses, and no real titles.

    You can work on whatever you want, but you have to be able to put yourself to work and perform to a certain standard, so there’s nothing holding back your creativity and productivity, but you have a big responsibility to make use of yourself.

    Gabe Newell recently said in a lecture that one of the keys to making that work is firing people if they can’t adapt to it.

    #33 2 years ago
  34. Stephany Nunneley

    Post updated. Still no word from Valve, yet.

    #34 2 years ago
  35. Stephany Nunneley

    … and the post has, again, been updated

    #35 2 years ago
  36. TheBlackHole

    Wow. Pretty big deal that.

    #36 2 years ago
  37. LuLshuck

    First comment is gold

    #37 2 years ago
  38. Gheritt White

    Apple to buy Valve rumours in 3… 2… 1…

    #38 2 years ago
  39. salarta

    Apple to buy Valve.


    #39 2 years ago
  40. A2ra3l

    iSteam? The New Counterstrike? Team Fortress mini perhaps? Or maybe, just maybe Left For Dead 2s?

    #40 2 years ago
  41. Sanwiches


    #41 2 years ago
  42. Len

    More importantly, Black Hole – spill the HL3 beans! ;)

    #42 2 years ago
  43. fearmonkey

    Man… How can they fire the woman who made a commodore 64 bass guitar, seriously this woman is so awesome!

    #43 2 years ago

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