That Was Quick: Steam Boss No Longer At Microsoft

By Nathan Grayson on February 13th, 2014 at 8:00 am.

Whoops, looks like Microsoft’s Ken Lobb neglected to tell me something. Shortly after publishing our interview from D.I.C.E.’s red carpet wherein I specifically mentioned the hiring of former Steam director of business development Jason Holtman as a sign that Microsoft was embracing PC gaming, I received an anonymous tip that he was no longer with the company. One quick LinkedIn check later and, yep, he’s out. That, um, doesn’t bode well.

When Holtman went from Steam and came aboard the titanic SS MSOFT a mere six months ago, he adamantly stated that he would be, “focusing on making Windows a great platform for gaming and interactive entertainment.”

With execs like Lobb now stating that Microsoft is re-dedicated to PC gaming again, it seems a big shame that Holtman would be shown the door or head for the hills of his own volition. Especially given that Holtman barely even had time to get comfortable in Microsoft’s mega-lair.

I’ve attempted to get in touch with Microsoft and Holtman for comment, but no dice so far. If anyone in Live Studio Audience happens to know anything, feel free to get in touch.

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62 Comments »

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  1. baby snot says:

    Sites that require registration to view information are infuriating. Linking to them just as much so.

    • dsch says:

      And then I got over it before I spazzed over the comments section.

    • Premium User Badge

      keithzg says:

      Look, if you’re saying that LinkedIn is an atrocity, you won’t get any argument from me. But the entire news here is that he has shown via his LinkedIn profile that he is no longer working at Microsoft, so where the hell else would RPS link to?

      • LionsPhil says:

        Yeah, I’d rather have a primary source than a “Kotaku said”, even if the primary source is only verifiable by a subset of people.

    • frightlever says:

      Linkedin spam and skeevy address book whoring make me dislike them more than the average phishers, who at least have abject poverty as an excuse.

    • Text_Fish says:

      YEAH fuck you RPS why didn’t you link to his LinkedIn profile on a site that isn’t LinkedIn??

  2. nimbulan says:

    My guess is he was frustrated by Microsoft’s complete lack of dedication to PC gaming so he left. They sure talk about it a lot but never actually do anything.

    • Text_Fish says:

      My guess is he got mobbed on his first day by a bunch of desperate execs clamouring for him to build them a Steam clone and then he decided to just stay on long enough to make sure GFWL was properly dead and buried.

    • Contrafibularity says:

      Better make that “burning desire to kill off PC gaming and substitute it with a proprietary PC-console” and “immense stupidity being completely oblivious to the fact PC gaming is (at least half) the reason people still use Windows rather than Linux **which is free**”.

      So yeah I imagine it might have went something like:

      Microsoft manager: So Jason, please tell us your thoughts on how we can kill PC gaming as quickly, efficiently and most profitably as possible?
      Holtman: Bye.

      • Premium User Badge

        Cinek says:

        ” fact PC gaming is (at least half) the reason people still use Windows rather than Linux ” – you underestimate a size of professional market working on Windows, sir.

    • The Random One says:

      “Hey Jason, are you going to work on better PC gaming for Windows 9?”
      “Windows what?”
      “Er, nine.”
      “I don’t know what that is.”
      “It’s a number. I don’t know how to explain a number. It’s three times three.”
      “AAAAAAAAAAAAARGH” *punches other guy*

    • joa says:

      Or more likely he just left because he saw better opportunities elsewhere. Despite what you may like to believe as a PC zealot, companies and execs are not interested in PCs or consoles or anything. They are just interested in what will make them more money. For Microsoft that means consoles, because there’s several orders of magnitude more money in them than PC. Why does it surprise anyone that businesses act as businesses are supposed to (and in fact legally obligated to) act?

      • Wedge says:

        Microsoft is interested in maintaining their more profitable business sector operations, where they have much higher margins (and more potential for competition to worry about). Their console division really doesn’t make them much money considering the amount it costs them to create and upkeep everything.

  3. Godwhacker says:

    That man is a dead ringer for John Sessions

    • BreadBitten says:

      Think I see some Martin Freeman there as well.

      • MrThingy says:

        And a wee dash of Andy Serkis, “prrrrreciousssssss”

        • rikvanoostende says:

          And the periorbital puffiness of Gary Sinise

          • Bull0 says:

            Getting into proper phrenology territory here. I imagine Smingleigh will be along any minute.

          • Premium User Badge

            Lars Westergren says:

            He’s taking his time. Maybe his beard got stuck in the Spank-O-Matic again?

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      I see some Rowen Atkinson, but with a wider face.

    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      Came here to ask relevance of John Sessions photo also

      “Whose job is it anyway?”

  4. Neurotic says:

    I remember a piece here ages ago that used that photo of Holtman, and the entire comments thread was about how friendly and affable he looks there, and how we’d all like to have him as an uncle. That prompted quite a few ‘favourite mad uncle’ stories, which was great fun. Hooray for Holtman, I say!

  5. Drake Sigar says:

    I never believed a word of of that interview.

  6. secuda says:

    HA bet he was to posetive for PC gaming, and not just “apps for smartphones”.
    Oh well better luck next time MS.

  7. MeestaNob says:

    2 days! A new record for MS.

  8. MrNash says:

    Wasn’t really getting my hopes up anyway when Microsoft came out and said they wanted to get back into PC gaming again. I just assumed it was lip service. Even if they did do more PC stuff, I’m not too sure how excited I could get. A lot of the stuff they’re making now I’m not keen on, and the games they made for PC way back when I’m not convinced they could match in quality. Sure, they hold some snazzy IPs, but the people who made them are long gone.

  9. Snargelfargen says:

    Microsoft went through a massive reorganization around the same time Holtman joined. It was intended to encourage a more vertical, cooperative structure instead of what they had before which was basically every department fighting for its own projects. It was like Nazi Germany, where Hitler played the army, navy and airforce against each other, creating an antagonistic clusterfuck (sorry Godwin). That goes a long way towards explaining the confusing path GFWL and Games for Windows has taken. The right hand didn’t know what the left was doing because it was too busy punching itself in the thighs.

    So uh, Holtman’s departure doesn’t exactly bode well for the reorganization.

    • Premium User Badge

      keithzg says:

      Yeah, Microsoft’s every-department-against-eachother system was a clusterfuck (even moreso when it was powered within each organizational unit by stack ranking…ughhh). So when I heard that they were going to be entirely reforming that, I had a brief half-second of hope before I remembered that Microsoft is known for three things:

      1. Keeping things horrible and broken long past the point at which everyone knows they’re horrible and broken,
      2. Making a complete shitshow of it when they belatedly go in to try and replace those broken things (hey there Vista, I here you’ve been hanging around with 8 a lot lately, I guess you have a lot in common), and
      3. Promising fantastic things that they never seem to get around to actually doing (NTFS is getting a bit long in the tooth, when’s WinFS coming again? I seem to remember it’s being developed for Longhorn).

      So this story has all of that. They’re PC strategy has been broken and abusive for a long time (#1, see GFWL alongside their general lack of a digital distribution strategy—they basically took the worst of digital distribution with a lack of any of the advantages for consumers), and now that they’re trying to fix another example of trait #1 (their org chart and corporate culture) the inevitable #2 is kicking in, making #3 as it always is an inevitability.

      Like it always goes with trait #3, they’ve promised things in the face of stark competition even just by the mere act of hiring the former ‘head’ of Steam, which basically says to the world (and more specifically importantly to them, their stockholders) “we see Steam, and we’re going to meet the competition and outdo them! We master all markets, hoo-rah!” But then once the stock price protection is done, in the harsh light of day Microsoft meekly realizes that it was never really that into the idea and it’s probably a bunch of work or something.

      • Snargelfargen says:

        Speak of the devil; I just got an email alerting me that MS’ Cloud storage service “SkyDrive” is being rebranded as “OneDrive”.

        So, their Cloud storage group has realized fully a year late, that they should follow through on the XBOX branding and try to present their product as a unified solution for pcs, tablets and phones.

        No details on anything changing apart from the branding, what a farce: “SkyDrive will become OneDrive, an even better place to store and share your favourite things across all your favourite devices.”

        I’d rather they spent their time ensuring Office 365 has fewer outages.

        • Premium User Badge

          basilisk says:

          Actually, you will find that the real reason for that is that Microsoft was sued by the British channel Sky TV and forced to change the name. Because the company apparently owns the rights to the word “sky” now. (I think I owe them seven pennies for this comment alone.)

          • ohminus says:

            I’d rather say that in this day and age, it is not inconceivable that a media company offers storage space to record their emissions – many cable providers integrate hard disk recorders into their set top boxes. So there are valid reasons to argue the name “SkyDrive” might be taken to indicate it is a service provided by Sky, which it is not.

          • Premium User Badge

            basilisk says:

            Yes, that was the argument the judge used in the verdict. Sky claimed there were a few people who genuinely confused the two things in the past, which is certainly possible. But quite honestly, I find the case comparable to “edge”, “candy”, “scrolls” or indeed “metro”. You can see the reasoning behind it, but it’s all a bit silly and wastes everybody’s time, because the words are just so common.

    • The Dark One says:

      Shut up, liver! *punches self* Ow, my liver hurts. :(

      • Premium User Badge

        Malibu Stacey says:

        Is it wrong that when I read the above comment my brain rendered it in the voice of Homer Simpson?

        • TheMightyEthan says:

          Not wrong at all, mine did the same thing.

          On a completely unrelated note: isn’t it interesting how we’ve come to discuss our brains and their thoughts as if they were a separate entity from ourselves?

          • fish99 says:

            Two ways of looking at that, either ‘ourselves’ refers to the collective whole, i.e. everything that is part of us, but not each individual part, or, that people think the only bit that is ‘us’ is our soul (you can blame religion for that one).

            While every part of you is technically still ‘you’, the only bit that could really be said to be uniquely you is your brain and what’s stored there. That’s why I find the term ‘brain transplant’ funny, because there is no such thing. What there is, is a whole body transplant. Give you a different brain, you’re not you anymore. You would look like you, but you wouldn’t have your memories or personality, and from your perspective such a procedure would kill you.

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      Lars Westergren says:

      > a more vertical, cooperative structure instead of what they had before which was basically every department fighting for its own projects

      Like in this old organizational chart.
      http://www.pinterest.com/pin/59954238759771302/

  10. Tuco says:

    I know I already posted it in the MS interview comments, but just as a quick reminder of what you can expect from MS when it comes to PC gaming:
    http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?p=88868188#post88868188

    • Nim says:

      TBH. Discontinuing GFWL is a service to PC-gaming.

      • ZIGS says:

        Nobody is arguing that, the point he was making was that Microsoft blatantly lied about not dropping it

      • Tuco says:

        Yeah, it was, and that’s the irony of it: the greatest service MS did to PC gaming in the last decade was getting the hell out of the way.

        • Daryl says:

          The tragedy is that some publishers and developers actually believed in it, and now (some of) their games won’t work after it’s finally scrapped.

  11. vodka and cookies says:

    My guess he probably wanted to go toe to toe with Steam and MS were not willing to undermine the xbox.

    The thing about MS is that they adore brand awareness and anything that gets them in the media which the xbox does. Steam does not even though it is a bigger business than xbox it gets almost no attention from the mainstream media or celebrities.

    As long as xbox gets support from the top level of MS nothing will be allowed to jeopardize it and thats probably why he left.

    MS should never have launched another xbox console they could have done exactly what Valve is now planning to do and stream digital download games from local PC to a $50 HDMI stick plugged into a TV call it xbox TV but nope. The Xbox maintains this bizarre hold over MS managers even though the latest incarnation is a disaster.

    • Calculon says:

      This is true. I recall an interview/documentary about the failings of Microsoft and why, despite their lead and positioning, have been unable to take advantage of digital distribution or mobile devices.

      The story was told of an engineer bringing to the table the concept of the smart phone (years before blackberry and the iPhone), and it was shot down because they couldn’t put Microsoft Office on it, and didn’t want to compete with the Office brand…

      Oh – also EA sucks

  12. Premium User Badge

    Thermal Ions says:

    Back at the MS Offices after the Ceremony:
    Ken Lobb: “Would you believe some blogger asked me about our re-dedication to PC Gaming.”
    MS VP of something: “Where on earth did they get that idea? We’re not really doing that are we?”
    Ken Lobb: “Of course not. Don’t worry I fobbed them off with some non-committal double talk. They did say something about that new guy Holtman down in the basement being proof.”
    MS VP of something: “Yeah, I’ve been a bit suspicious of that guy ever since he turned up on his first day and didn’t complete the XBox GamerTag field on his commencement form. Apparently he didn’t have one, yet Ballmer still hired him.”
    Ken Lobb: “Well that explains why the board got rid of Ballmer then doesn’t it.”
    MS VP of something: “Don’t worry, I’ll go have a word to Satya and we can quietly dump Holtman as part of his ‘new vision’.”

    Jason Holtman: “Thanks Nathan.”

    • Tuco says:

      Amusing.
      Except he left some time ago.
      The news is just going public now, but it’s actually old.

  13. cunningmunki says:

    I was actually worried that Holtman might give MS the insight they needed to go up against Valve. This news not only dispels that concern but also makes me certain that in five years time PC gaming will exist almost entirely in a SteamOS world.

    • Premium User Badge

      Cinek says:

      I’ll be shocked if in 5 years time even 25% of steam users will run from Steam OS. It’s more likely that in 5 years time noone will even remember something like Steam OS ever existed.

      • waltC says:

        …;) In 5 years’ time, Valve won’t remember something called “SteamOS”. Newell will say, when asked to reminisce on the PR stunt called SteamOS, “Huh? What? I seem to vaguely recall…”

      • joa says:

        Indeed. Wish one could say the same about Linux as a whole ;)

  14. Abndn says:

    I always hated Klobb. KF7 Soviet or even just the basic PP7 were far superior.

    • Shooop says:

      Nobody liked the Klobb. It was easily the most useless weapon of all, spraying bullets everywhere but where you were aiming.

  15. Lemming says:

    Who knew John Sessions worked at Valve/Microsoft.

  16. Perkelnik says:

    I guess they really are going after PC…

  17. quarpec says:

    yeah haha microsoft isn’t ever gonna be a big player in pc gaming again and i honestly wish they’d stop trying because they’ve been 100% detrimental to it since they started getting in on that sweet console dollar.

  18. rocketman71 says:

    “he would be, “focusing on making Windows a great platform for gaming and interactive entertainment.”

    Windows already is a great platform for gaming. It is Microsoft that sucks.