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Former Steam Manager Now Leading Windows Gaming

By - Source: Gamesindustry International | B 12 comments

For eight years, Valve veteran Jason Holtman spearheaded the company's Steam digital distribution platform, serving as the point of contact for developers and publishers that distributed their games through the service. Now he's working at Microsoft, and will focus on the company's PC gaming and entertainment strategy.

"Yes, I have joined Microsoft where I will be focusing on making Windows a great platform for gaming and interactive entertainment," he told Gamesindustry International. "I think there is a lot of opportunity for Microsoft to deliver the games and entertainment customers want and to work with developers to make that happen, so I'm excited to be here."

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As reported back in February, the former director of business development was part of a massive layoff that included Jeri Ellsworth and 24 other Valve employees. The company didn't make any explanations about the staff reduction, but the surrounding speculation was enough to pull Gabe Newell out of silence to confirm that Valve had no plans to talk about who was and wasn't working at the company.

"No, we aren't canceling any projects," Newell said. "No, we aren't changing any priorities or projects we've been discussing. No, this isn't about Steam or Linux or hardware or [insert game name here]. We're not going to discuss why anyone in particular is or isn't working here."

There's now speculation that Holtman's new job at Microsoft means the company plans to refocus its efforts on the PC gaming and digital distribution space. Up until now, many developers assumed that Microsoft had given up on its Games for Windows initiative in light of Windows 8 and the upcoming Xbox One. That may be due to Microsoft's saying that its first-party strategy won't include desktop gamers.

"We have got everything from very, very casual games, like our very much improved and reimagined Solitaire, all the way to graphically complicated games like The Harvest," said former Midway Games CEO and current GM of Microsoft Game Studios, Matt Booty.

Holtman is considered by the industry as a skilled dealmaker, and has been largely credited for convincing third parties like Electronic Arts -- which has its own digital distribution platform -- Activision and others to publish their games on Valve's platform. He also supposedly helped steer Valve through its DRM controversies relating to Steam, and helped calm publisher fears that special promotional events like the annual Steam Summer sale could devalue their intellectual property.

That said, the respect he has earned from publishers and developers could be a potential gold mine for Microsoft which has struggled to sustain its own platform in a market dominated by Steam, Origin and even GameFly. Microsoft is expected to not only harness those talents in the PC gaming arena, but digital purchases revolving around the upcoming Xbox One as well.

"This kind of direct relationship is the next stage in the evolution of the games business," said John Taylor, managing director at Arcadia Investment Corp. "Valve is already there on the PC side and I think Microsoft would be very happy to have some sort of Valve template to lay on top of the Xbox."

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  • 8 Hide
    BringMeAnother , August 15, 2013 9:02 PM
    Make it like Steam, but better, if that is possible. We need more competition.
  • 2 Hide
    eklipz330 , August 15, 2013 9:23 PM
    i disagree. i don't need to have more fragmentation for my pc games. one place is just fine.
  • Display all 12 comments.
  • 0 Hide
    Elevory , August 15, 2013 11:06 PM
    At this point, I can't afford to care how good Microsoft Not-Steam may become.
  • 3 Hide
    itchyisvegeta , August 15, 2013 11:17 PM
    There's hope for Windows gaming after all.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , August 15, 2013 11:38 PM
    Here's working undercover for Steam, first he tells them to shutdown GFWL then find another way to sink them. :p 
  • -2 Hide
    g00fysmiley , August 16, 2013 5:00 AM
    i see this as bad for the gaming community. at m$ he might help make a stronger windows gaming enviroment but that jsut means more DX titles and less of a move to opengl or somethign like that so we can escape m$ altogether
  • 6 Hide
    back_by_demand , August 16, 2013 5:02 AM
    Sean1357 clearly has no clue, Steam is the defacto best digital distribution gaming and there is no way to spin this badly for MS
  • 0 Hide
    wanderer11 , August 16, 2013 6:39 AM
    The last thing I want is another distribution platform. I already have Steam, Origin, and Uplay.
  • 1 Hide
    yobobjm , August 16, 2013 8:11 AM
    The fact is, competition is a good thing. Origin and Uplay cannot stand on their own which leaves valve with almost a monopoly on the Pc gaming company.
  • 3 Hide
    back_by_demand , August 16, 2013 8:23 AM
    Suggestion for Jason Holtman, if XB1 and Windows 8 are share core kernel then have any game bought digital only playable on both platforms. I play at home on the console then go round to a friends house, "hey dude, I can play this game on your XB1 too, but ohnoez you have a PC instead", but then you launch the Xbox App in W8, login with XBLive and can play on the PC too - finally unite the PC / console divide
  • 0 Hide
    BringMeAnother , August 16, 2013 3:33 PM
    Why disagree to more competition? I mean if you don't want to split your library, keep buying from Steam exclusively. It's up to you. If Microsoft do manage to make their platform a major competitor, Steam would be forced to offer even better services and innovate more to stay in the game, so even if you wouldn't touch the Microsoft client with a ten feet pole, you'd still benefit.
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