With a history of developing some of the greatest games ever made—Half-Life, Portal, Counter Strike, Team Fortress, to name a few—the VR space has high hopes for the three VR games that the company has confirmed it’s developing. But some have taken recent layoffs as a sign that Valve’s interest in VR is waning. Valve head Gabe Newell recently took his to inbox to answer some questions, including affirming that the company is still working on its VR titles.
It was just a few weeks ago that Valve confirmed that it had laid off 13 full time employees and an undisclosed number of contractors. The layoffs are believed to have largely impacted the company’s VR hardware group.
Valve maintained that the layoffs don’t “represent any major changes at the company,” but that didn’t stop fans from writing directly to Valve head Gabe Newell for reassurance.
Valve News Network, a YouTube channel focused on the company, recently collected a handful of email responses from Newell and summarized them in a video. A few of the emails pertained to VR specifically.
One straightforward email got a suitably straightforward response:
Q: Hi Gabe, are the three VR titles still coming?
Another email went into a bit more detail about Valve’s modern approach to game design:
Q: Is is accurate to say that Valve is making a shift (even if a minor one) away from developing software/game titles in favor of developing hardware?
A: We think of it as increasing the range of design choices that are available to use as game developers.
If you are a mod, you are limited to the choices of your host game.
If you are a game, you are limited to the choices of your engine.
By being able to design hardware at the same time we are designing a game, we think we will be able to build better games. Hopefully this is more obvious when Knuckles ships.
The last part of Newell’s email suggests that Knuckles—the company’s next-gen VR controllers which have been in development for years—will ship with at least one of Valve’s VR games.
Although Valve has been much more open about the progress of Knuckles in the last year, the company has steered clear of talking about the games they are building alongside them. The fact that Knuckles seem in many ways to be complete, but that Valve still hasn’t hinted at a release date, further suggests that the release may be dictated more by the games that Valve is working on than the controller hardware.
Valve first confirmed its work on three VR games back in February, 2017, and at the time described them as “three full [VR] games, not experiments.” That means that the company has been working on the games for at least two years now.
As with the more recent email, Newell had at the time also explained the company’s belief in building hardware and software together.
“One of the questions you might be asking is ‘Why in the world would you be making hardware?’ What we can do now is we can be designing hardware at the same time that we’re designing software,” Newell said, according to Eurogamer. “This is something that [Nintendo’s] Miyamoto has always had. He’s had the ability to think about what the input device is and design a system while he designs games. Our sense is that this will actually allow us to build much better entertainment experiences for people.”