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How Valve empowers each and every one of its employees
How Valve empowers each and every one of its employees
October 30, 2012 | By Mike Rose

October 30, 2012 | By Mike Rose
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing, Recruitment

"Three people at the company can ship anything."
- Greg Coomer, product designer at Valve, further explains how the company's hierarchy works.

He adds, "The reason [we say] three people -- because really ... one person can ship anything -- [is because] the work gets better if you just check with a couple of people before you decide to push a button."

There has been much discussion this year surrounding how Valve employees are managed, following the release of the company's new employee handbook. Coomer explained this week at the Seattle Interactive Conference exactly how anyone gets anything done when "nobody is checking your work."

"The actual career growth in an environment like Valve's is incredibly accelerated and it is something that allows people to make progress exactly limited only by their own desire and ability," he explained. "When you spend time at Valve, you are enormously empowered and you grow a lot faster than if you were following a more traditional path."

Coomer admitted that giving any employee the power to ship a Valve product by themself is "pretty daunting," but noted that "It can feel like an exercise and an experiment in cooperative leadership."

He continued, "If we are going to hire these incredible people, and we are not going to put constraints on them, then we can't be afraid to let them actually take charge and ship. That takes a lot of courage and trust.

"We are trying to learn to talk about it in a way that doesn't make us sound crazy," he added.

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Joseph Willmon
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If this "hierarchy" sounds strange, just imagine that you replaced everyone in your company with the caliber of person you usually reserve for Director level or above. And if your next thought is "Then who would do all the work?" well then that's your problem right there.

Maria Jayne
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I love this comment, truly...

Jeremy Alessi
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Love it!

Stephen Tucker
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I'm curious how profitable this system would be if Valve didn't have so much profit coming to them from being a publisher.

The first link says "But it works for Valve, which has grown to more than 320 employees and now boasts profits-per-employee that are greater than Microsoft, and Google."

But I'm interested to know how much of that profit is from being a publisher that takes 30% of the cut from other people's work, and how much of it comes directly from their game development. Part of me loves this business model and heavily supports it, but another part is weary that it's due to their other ventures that they're able to support their game development with this strategy.

Christopher J
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From the outside looking in, It sounds like Valve has long term vision. They created a foundation to support a creative work environment and happy employees which is how you innovate and lead. Regardless of the fact that they have a system in place that allows them to do this, what matters is that they are doing it. And winning at it. Seems like a logical business model. Create a foundation that generates revenue so you aren't exactly living project to project + remove unnecessary stress, acknowledge your employees + allow your creatives to be creative = a profitable business that innovates… who knew.

Justin Lloyd
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"Smart and get things done" will:
always take care of the details
always clean up mistakes
always think about the grand plan
always ship
always do what needs to be done
always do whatever it takes because doing it is what motivates them

Respect to Valve for actually doing what everybody else only says they do

Ramon Carroll
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Obviously, Valve understands the psychology of motivation. The more autonomy and creative freedom you take away from people, the less passion they have for the product. This is why I feel that the BioWare doctors burned out.