Valve has laid off 13 employees, including several reportedly from its hardware and VR divisions. The company claims that the move won’t impact any of its major initiatives or projects, but didn’t say exactly where they worked.
“Last month, 13 full time employees were let go and a portion of our contractor agreements were terminated,” Valve spokesperson Doug Lombardi said. “It’s an unfortunate part of business, but does not represent any major changes at the company. We thank those affected for their contribution and wish them well in future endeavors.”
One person confirmed to be out at Valve is Nat Brown, a VR engineer for the company since 2015 who confirmed he hasn’t been a Valve employee since February 7.
— Nat Brown (@natbro) March 7, 2019
It’s not clear what Valve is working on in the first place, in terms of VR hardware. While it has played a role in working with HTC to create the VR ecosystem on Steam and co-developed the Vive VR headset, it hasn’t released any actual VR hardware of note. There have been rumors of a headset, supposedly in development, but no hint of a public demo or product launch. Its collaboration with LG on a headset that actually got publicly demoed never came to market.
For all that Valve’s hardware efforts have mostly come to naught, VR does present a somewhat different issue. In this case, it’s important to maintain headset compatibility, particularly when providing support to devices like Oculus Rift, which run SteamVR on top of the Oculus service. Steam VR updates have improved the performance and quality of using Steam on Oculus over time (or at least they certainly seem to have, in the relatively few moments I can spare to play). In this case, keeping a hand in the development game has likely been essential to keeping Steam VR successful.
Hopefully, there’ll come a day when using a headset to play VR games across various clients won’t be any more of an issue than playing a modern title in Windows, but we’re not quite there yet. With a new Oculus Rift S rumored to be dropping soon, Valve’s continued support for VR is going to be essential to the success of the PC VR gaming market. If these cuts reflect trimming to Valve’s VR hardware plans, they may not matter much. If the company is culling its support for VR in software (or in hardware compatibility), they could have a more significant impact.
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