Former Steam Director Leaves Microsoft After Six Months

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Former Steam Director Leaves Microsoft After Six Months

Jason Holtman, the former head of Steam who joined Microsoft last summer to help push Windows as a gaming platform, has left the company after just six months.

Jason Holtman departed Valve under something of a cloud, but his arrival at Microsoft was nonetheless a big coup for the company. He was, after all, the director of business development at Valve for eight years, which meant that he was effectively the man behind the wheel on Steam, and given Microsoft's infamous and ugly flailing in the PC gaming arena over the past several years, he seemed like just the man it needed to get itself back on track.

But it appears that the relationship has come to an end after a surprisingly short stretch. Holtman's LinkedIn page says that his tenure at Microsoft, where he was responsible for "PC gaming and entertainment strategy," came to an end in January. He also posted an update on his Facebook stating that he's left his job at Microsoft.

While the reasons for his departure remain unknown, it's hard not to see it as a blow to Microsoft's PC gaming ambitions. In conjunction with the decision to finally let the notoriously awful Games for Windows Live platform wither and die, Holtman's hiring was seen as a real, meaningful step toward establishing relevance in the PC milieu. But with him out of the picture, and nothing of note having changed, it looks like either Microsoft isn't as committed to the cause as it let on, or that the situation behind the curtain is even worse than it appears to those of us on the outside. Either way, it's not a good turn of events for gamers.

We've reached out to Microsoft for more information on Holtman's departure and will update when we can.

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We'll, I'm going to remember this the next time Microsoft pretends they're "serious about PC gamers."

10:1 odds they fired the guy because it's pretty clear they have no desire to actually have Windows be a gaming platform. I'm kinda surprised they were willing to hire him in the first place.

I'm sure king Gabe will take him back with open arms.....for a price.

OT: The fact that Microsoft gaming hasnt improved an iota is clearly the reason he no longer works for them. That is a challenge that I don't think even MacGyver could solve. It would be easier to convert a scientologist to sanity.

It's always easiest to derail a project when you're working on the inside. ;)

Can't say it's him but with some new multiplats only coming out for Windows 8 on the pc someone at Microsoft doesn't know squat about the pc as a gaming platform.

Maybe his strategy for them was 'Just give up on a Microsoft-owned platform and release all the games on Steam instead'?

It could also be foreshadowing the rise of Games For Windows One

There goes the faithfuls last straw for believing Microsoft gives a single shit about PC gaming. It gets so tiresome hearing people postulate that maybe they really mean it "this time".

My guess would be that his departure is a warning that as Microsoft shifts its senior leadership gaming in general may be less of a priority. He may have been brought in under Balmer, and those that came after Balmer do not see Windows as a specifically supported and encouraged gaming platform as a priority. There have also been rumors that there is a strong block on Microsofts board and among their shareholders that are not thrilled with the costs vs rewards of the whole XBox line, feeling that MS's best efforts and rewards come from the core OS and the business world.

He was just there to sabotage Microsoft's system. Before long, he'll rejoin Valve and the internet will feel the rumblings of evil laughter.

"I wanted to be responsible for turning Windows 8 into a premiere gaming platform, but after six months I decided something like self-flagellation or ripping out my own fingernails would be a less painful form of self-abuse."

I wouldn't be surprised if this is the first sign that Microsoft is finally ready to admit that its future in gaming lies solely with the Xbox. This isn't necessarily a bad development, or even particularly noteworthy in and of itself. It's not as though MS has been doing anything with the platform anyway; its most significant move in years was to pull away from the market, and while that was initially presented as the first step toward a better and more focused approach, the feeling now (and especially under new leadership, as has been pointed out) may be that it just isn't worth the effort.

I really do hope MS gets back to me on this - impactful or not, it's a big move - but I'm not holding my breath.

Andy Chalk:
I wouldn't be surprised if this is the first sign that Microsoft is finally ready to admit that its future in gaming lies solely with the Xbox. This isn't necessarily a bad development, or even particularly noteworthy in and of itself. It's not as though MS has been doing anything with the platform anyway; its most significant move in years was to pull away from the market, and while that was initially presented as the first step toward a better and more focused approach, the feeling now (and especially under new leadership, as has been pointed out) may be that it just isn't worth the effort.

I really do hope MS gets back to me on this - impactful or not, it's a big move - but I'm not holding my breath.

Even if you get a response, I'd be flabbergasted if it were anything but the "we have chosen to part ways, and wish him all the best with future endeavours" copypasta.

That said, either it indeed is a sign of MS dropping PC gaming, or they've decided stale and dumb suits them just fine. Which would imply that Holtman left because he couldn't be arsed beating his head against a corporate brick wall.

Honestly, I'm favouring the latter.

In lieu of any actual information on the matter, I can't help but imagine he tried to change things up, but Microsoft refused to actually listen to him. Kinda like an 80 year old set in his ways.

Andy Chalk:
I really do hope MS gets back to me on this - impactful or not, it's a big move - but I'm not holding my breath.

Did you also try to reach Holtman for his side of things?

Id be more inclined to believe his reason for why he left over what some PR scapegoat working for MS was told to say.

I've heard somewhere that the Balmer had a really weird organizational system that actually encouraged lack of cooperation and even mild sabotage of other project teams. I'd be really surprised that anyone after working under Valve's horizontal organization, and what I've heard is the fantastic work environment because of it, could ever thrive at Microsoft. I would think that even with a company stated goal, it'd be nearly impossible to make any headway as an outsider there. I'd most likely quit out of frustration myself.

Andy Chalk:
I wouldn't be surprised if this is the first sign that Microsoft is finally ready to admit that its future in gaming lies solely with the Xbox. This isn't necessarily a bad development, or even particularly noteworthy in and of itself. It's not as though MS has been doing anything with the platform anyway; its most significant move in years was to pull away from the market, and while that was initially presented as the first step toward a better and more focused approach, the feeling now (and especially under new leadership, as has been pointed out) may be that it just isn't worth the effort.

I really do hope MS gets back to me on this - impactful or not, it's a big move - but I'm not holding my breath.

And not only that, but I feel as though this latest move gives even more credence to Mr. Newell's[1] comments on the dangers of Windows 8 and the direction in which Microsoft was heading within the gaming industry.

It's a dangerous, uncertain, and tenuous time for gamers. Especially PC gamers.

The next year will be very telling and very crucial to the industry.

[1] And many other big-wigs in the industry.)

Andy Chalk:

While the reasons for his departure remain unknown, it's hard not to see it as a blow to Microsoft's PC gaming ambitions.

Microsoft had PC gaming ambitions?

On a more serious note, I wonder if the new CEO had anything to do with this.

Then again, I've heard that Microsoft's structure for proper management practices, design and production have been rather lacking in the last decade. If you were a person who wanted to come in, get a project going and finish it, it would be hard to maintain enthusiasm when you're resisted every step of the way.

"In those years Microsoft had stepped up its efforts to cripple competitors, but-because of a series of astonishingly foolish management decisions-the competitors being crippled were often co-workers at Microsoft, instead of other companies. Staffers were rewarded not just for doing well but for making sure that their colleagues failed. As a result, the company was consumed by an endless series of internal knife fights. Potential market-busting businesses-such as e-book and smartphone technology-were killed, derailed, or delayed amid bickering and power plays."

source: http://www.vanityfair.com/business/2012/08/microsoft-lost-mojo-steve-ballmer

I guess when you've worked for a gaming monopoly, working for a wannabe gaming monopoly is just too much of a step down.

Gezzer:
I've heard somewhere that the Balmer had a really weird organizational system that actually encouraged lack of cooperation and even mild sabotage of other project teams. I'd be really surprised that anyone after working under Valve's horizontal organization, and what I've heard is the fantastic work environment because of it, could ever thrive at Microsoft. I would think that even with a company stated goal, it'd be nearly impossible to make any headway as an outsider there. I'd most likely quit out of frustration myself.

From what I've read employees basically work in teams of 10, and every quarter management rates the individual in each team from 1-10. That's not an out of 10 ranking, but rather one guys is always first and another is always last with everyone else falling in one of the spots in between. So you, people are concerned about their individual performances so they can get their bonuses or whatever, and the more devious may actively work to sabotage his competition to ensure a better ranking for themselves.

Forget where it was from but it was a rather lengthy magazine article from a few years ago on the woes of Microsoft. That's as a corporation, nothing to do with gaming, looking at how they went from the dominant position in the industry to losing ground to the likes of Apple and Google.

Alpha Maeko:
He was just there to sabotage Microsoft's system. Before long, he'll rejoin Valve and the internet will feel the rumblings of evil laughter.

Seeing how his only contribution of note was to kill off GFWL, I think that he only managed to improve Microsoft's system immeasurably.

A bit OT, but that guy looks like Crowley from Supernatural to me. Would have thought sorting out M$'s fucked up PC department would have been easy for him?

Captcha for today : Dear Mr. Vernon

Microsoft is a labyrinthine pit of bureaucracy in which it's damn near impossible to get anything done. I'm not surprised he's left already. To go from Valve to Microsoft would be such a dramatic shift in management policies, I don't' think anyone could take it.

Alpha Maeko:
He was just there to sabotage Microsoft's system. Before long, he'll rejoin Valve and the internet will feel the rumblings of evil laughter.

Whose evil laughter? Microsoft's?

After all, one must never underestimate the corrupting power of the Dark Side. Who knows what those 6 months did to Holtman. He could be more corporate than man now. Twisted and evil.

I hope he got one of those big fat severance payouts just to burn M$ for being the kind of corp that does that evil practice.

RandV80:

Gezzer:
I've heard somewhere that the Balmer had a really weird organizational system that actually encouraged lack of cooperation and even mild sabotage of other project teams. I'd be really surprised that anyone after working under Valve's horizontal organization, and what I've heard is the fantastic work environment because of it, could ever thrive at Microsoft. I would think that even with a company stated goal, it'd be nearly impossible to make any headway as an outsider there. I'd most likely quit out of frustration myself.

From what I've read employees basically work in teams of 10, and every quarter management rates the individual in each team from 1-10. That's not an out of 10 ranking, but rather one guys is always first and another is always last with everyone else falling in one of the spots in between. So you, people are concerned about their individual performances so they can get their bonuses or whatever, and the more devious may actively work to sabotage his competition to ensure a better ranking for themselves.

Forget where it was from but it was a rather lengthy magazine article from a few years ago on the woes of Microsoft. That's as a corporation, nothing to do with gaming, looking at how they went from the dominant position in the industry to losing ground to the likes of Apple and Google.

That is a horrible system yet similar one are apparently still common practice. Where I worked after an even bigger corp bought us out, they have this stupid rewards card that they wanted everyone to sell. So, the ticket cashiers would force it on people coming then the concessions, and they wanted ushers to ask random people coming out if they had bought one yet. The concessionists got more commission so some people would complain if they were anywhere else. And even worse they started basing raises on those sales. The 3-4 projectionists left including myself were along with the ushers screwed because we never worked a cash register since we were ones (not even anyone in management had the basic computer skills to understand half the stuff we asked them to do) who could comprehend what was going on if a problem happened and they happened a lot, so we just helped clean theaters on the weekend and ran of when bulb inevitably failed early or management switches showtimes around without telling us. And the ushers weren't going to take what little time they had to let someone else make a sale. It was all counterproductive and demoralizing. The card was shit to all but families and movie fanatics who would spend over $120 a year, anyway.

I heard of and seen other similar or worse strategies in action and can't believe love companies turning their employee's against each other or the company. The recent asst. manager getting barrista tips story rings a bell. Then, I remember these corporations are ran by greedy fucks who only look at the short term profits and see everyone below them as pack animals they begrudgingly have to feed, and it all makes sense.

MinionJoe:
It's always easiest to derail a project when you're working on the inside. ;)

What project?

Games For Windows Live was on an iron-lung when he arrived; clinically alive but functionally dead for all practical purposes.

Andy Chalk:
I wouldn't be surprised if this is the first sign that Microsoft is finally ready to admit that its future in gaming lies solely with the Xbox.
This isn't necessarily a bad development, or even particularly noteworthy in and of itself.

I think it's noteworthy, but mostly due to such a short term of employment for a high position. If I had to guess, I'd theorize the game-unfriendly "new management" and restructuring saw him go.

As for Microsoft going Xbox-only for gaming, I'm of two minds.

Future development for their OSes and software could go in a direction that is PC game-unfriendly either out of apathy or just to quietly push gamers into the console arena.
On the other hand: SteamOS is coming out soon, and depending on how that goes, it will either supplement any part of the PC market that M$ neglects, or life will become briefly...problematic.

Microsoft is just in a WEIRD position of power when it comes to gaming.

Andy Chalk:
I wouldn't be surprised if this is the first sign that Microsoft is finally ready to admit that its future in gaming lies solely with the Xbox. This isn't necessarily a bad development, or even particularly noteworthy in and of itself. It's not as though MS has been doing anything with the platform anyway; its most significant move in years was to pull away from the market, and while that was initially presented as the first step toward a better and more focused approach, the feeling now (and especially under new leadership, as has been pointed out) may be that it just isn't worth the effort.

I really do hope MS gets back to me on this - impactful or not, it's a big move - but I'm not holding my breath.

I'd agree, but this news also surfaced a few days ago:

http://www.ibtimes.com/eliminate-xbox-one-bing-surface-says-microsoft-investors-1554691

I don't think that it would be smart for Microsoft to come out and announce "Xbox is the way forward" in light of this. But maybe they'd be able to spin it in a way to get people back on board.

Anyway, that's only the investors, but there have been a few higher-ups in Microsoft that have expressed discontent with Xbox too. So who knows what Microsoft is up to.

-Dragmire-:

Andy Chalk:

While the reasons for his departure remain unknown, it's hard not to see it as a blow to Microsoft's PC gaming ambitions.

Microsoft had PC gaming ambitions?

On a more serious note, I wonder if the new CEO had anything to do with this.

Then again, I've heard that Microsoft's structure for proper management practices, design and production have been rather lacking in the last decade. If you were a person who wanted to come in, get a project going and finish it, it would be hard to maintain enthusiasm when you're resisted every step of the way.

"In those years Microsoft had stepped up its efforts to cripple competitors, but-because of a series of astonishingly foolish management decisions-the competitors being crippled were often co-workers at Microsoft, instead of other companies. Staffers were rewarded not just for doing well but for making sure that their colleagues failed. As a result, the company was consumed by an endless series of internal knife fights. Potential market-busting businesses-such as e-book and smartphone technology-were killed, derailed, or delayed amid bickering and power plays."

source: http://www.vanityfair.com/business/2012/08/microsoft-lost-mojo-steve-ballmer

The new CEO probably did. He is friends with Ballmer, and would be willing to double down on the failing xbox out of friendship alone to keep Ballmer's image in the business community. Just like Bill gates keeping Ballmer around even when he killed Microsoft's stock price.

Why anyone would like Ballmer enough to risk their money repeatedly is beyond me. At some point I would just stop because there is a line where it becomes a creepy and abusive relationship between 3 men.

And an abusive three some is not something you can easily explain.

Starke:
We'll, I'm going to remember this the next time Microsoft pretends they're "serious about PC gamers."

which btw just happened... TODAY

http://www.gamespot.com/articles/microsoft-on-pc-gaming-we-re-very-dedicated-to-that-space/1100-6417683/

the article came online just before the news of Jason leaving, i bet he saw the article and he was like "what a lot of bullshit, fuck you guys, im out of here"

Caiphus:
I'd agree, but this news also surfaced a few days ago:

http://www.ibtimes.com/eliminate-xbox-one-bing-surface-says-microsoft-investors-1554691

I don't think that it would be smart for Microsoft to come out and announce "Xbox is the way forward" in light of this. But maybe they'd be able to spin it in a way to get people back on board.

Anyway, that's only the investors, but there have been a few higher-ups in Microsoft that have expressed discontent with Xbox too. So who knows what Microsoft is up to.

On the other hand, I don't think it's smart for Microsoft to say that they're going to give up on Xbox right after they've invested shitloads of money into a new console that, by all accounts, is actually doing quite well, even if it's not doing as well as the PS4. Xbox is a big and popular brand, even if Microsoft still hasn't figured out how to actually make money on it yet. Maybe they should look to drop it in the future if the Xbone doesn't do amazingly well, but for now dropping it would be incredibly stupid.

I do think they should get rid of Bing, though. That has been nothing but an enormous money pit for Microsoft, and it needs to go.

ohnoitsabear:

On the other hand, I don't think it's smart for Microsoft to say that they're going to give up on Xbox right after they've invested shitloads of money into a new console that, by all accounts, is actually doing quite well, even if it's not doing as well as the PS4. Xbox is a big and popular brand, even if Microsoft still hasn't figured out how to actually make money on it yet. Maybe they should look to drop it in the future if the Xbone doesn't do amazingly well, but for now dropping it would be incredibly stupid.

I do think they should get rid of Bing, though. That has been nothing but an enormous money pit for Microsoft, and it needs to go.

Oh, absolutely. It would be a disaster for them to publicly give up on Xbox. Developers and consumers would fear a lack of support, sales would drop and it would snowball from there, in a similar fashion to the Wii U.

But yes. Who knows what they're actually thinking internally. Whether Microsoft considers that the Xbone may be their last console (I rather hope this doesn't happen. Sony have begun to behave themselves partially because Microsoft gave them a decent fight last gen).

As for Bing, I don't know. I never use it. How much money do they put into Bing? Surely it can't be that difficult to get a return on a search engine, even if it isn't quite google? I'm speaking from ignorance though.

Atmos Duality:

Future development for their OSes and software could go in a direction that is PC game-unfriendly either out of apathy or just to quietly push gamers into the console arena.

So basically what the GabeN and other notables from around the industry were saying over a year ago but were given endless shit for?

Microsoft is just in a WEIRD position of power when it comes to gaming.

Yes...yes they are.

In fact, I'd say they're in a dangerous position in that they basically have their hand gripping the esophagus of the PC gaming industry. And given the direction they're seemingly going with Windows, they're tightening that grip to the point of suffocation.

Like I'd been saying last year: 2014 will be a very tenuous, very crucial, and very telling year for the video gaming industry as a whole.

Vigormortis:

So basically what the GabeN and other notables from around the industry were saying over a year ago but were given endless shit for?

I never gave them any such shit; but then again, I remember the Microsoft that thought Windows ME was a legitimate product and who torpedoed software development firms just to avoid having to compete with them.

Like I'd been saying last year: 2014 will be a very tenuous, very crucial, and very telling year for the video gaming industry as a whole.

We'll see.
I'm leaning towards "Second verse, same as the first. This time though, a little bit worse."

Leviano:
I'm sure king Gabe will take him back with open arms.....for a price.

I now have the visual image of Gabe Newell sitting in a chair looking bleakly at his former employee demanding his pinky as a sign of loyalty. Although I'm pretty sure that's EA's policy.

So nobody here thinks that when one guy gets bounced from two different companies in six months, it might have something to do with the guy?

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