Last week, we learned that Valve had gone through a round of layoffs, with around 13 employees losing their employment. At the time, it was believed that this mainly impacted Valve's virtual reality hardware team, but there were other areas affected, including the Artifact team.
Valve uses a lot of contract workers in addition to full-time employees. Magic The Gathering creator, Richard Garfield, was among the group of contractors that were let go. Garfield was one of the main designers behind Artifact alongside his partner, Skaff Elias. In a statement given to Artibuff, Garfield explained that he wasn't surprised by the layoff “considering how rocky the launch was”. After launch, it “became clear that it wasn't going to be easy to get the game to where we wanted it”.
Garfield explains that part of the reasoning here is that “time is more critical” to Artifact's development now that the game is out. Having more voices on the team can slow down decision making, beyond that, Garfield's expertise is “less critical” now after spending four years getting the project to where it is today.
After news of the firings began doing the rounds, Gabe Newell surprisingly began answering questions too. He confirmed that 13 people were let go from Valve in February, adding that “it was a people thing, not a hardware thing”. With that in mind, it looks like the VR team layoffs were not an indication of plans changing.
Valve's Alan Yates also took to the Vive subreddit to give a comment on the situation. Yates is still at Valve working on VR research & development alongside “the original core team” and “a bunch of people you've never heard about”. Yates added that VR “wasn't the main group affected” and that it “certainly wasn't half the FTEs (full-time employees) in hardware”.
With all of that in mind, it looks like Valve wants to get the message out that it is all ‘business as usual' at the office, with the layoffs not being an indication of any drastic changes.
KitGuru Says: Valve has always been a secretive company with a very odd internal structure. It is very possible that these layoffs were simply part of the yearly employee review system that is in place at Valve. Judging from comments made by those still working there, it sounds like that is the case.