Microsoft’s Loss: Ex-Steam Boss Joins Oculus

By Nathan Grayson on June 5th, 2014 at 11:00 am.

I'm in the business of Jason Holtman, and business is booming

Normally when videogame execs are the subject of countless headlines, it’s because they said something fighty or controversial. Or maybe they got an inner-thigh tattoo. Not former Steam brainguy Jason Holtman, though. Truth be told, he hasn’t really said much of anything for quite a while. The man just won’t stay still, is the thing. First he helped pioneer Steam at Valve, then he moved on to Microsoft to focus on “making Windows a great platform for gaming.” But suddenly he left mere months later, never to be seen again. OR SO WE THOUGHT. Now he’s surfaced at Oculus as “head of platform.” When reached for comment, Oculus would not explain who will be the body, nor whether the arms and legs will be made of robot lions.

Here’s what Holtman will be doing at Oculus: “Jason will be spearheading the business development and partnership side of the Oculus platform working closely with Marshall, head of platform engineering, and David, head of worldwide publishing, with a focus on building the world’s best developer and player VR ecosystem. We’re thrilled to welcome him to the team.”

Meanwhile, the Facebook purchase understandably “supercharged” Oculus’ all-matter-devouring black hole of a recruitment effort, so now it’s added more new employees than you can shake a Facebook Facebrick (TM) at:

  • Neil Konzen, former engineer at Valve and one of the original Microsoft employees
  • Brian Hook, former engineer at RAD (Telemetry) and the original author of 3Dfx Glide
  • Adrian Wong, former lead systems engineer at Google[x] (Glass)
  • Ian Field, former engineer at ARM and co-inventor of Cortex-M
  • Raul Corella, former head of supply chain at JawBone, Monster, and Leap Motion
  • Laura Fryer, former GM of Epic Seattle and WB Seattle
  • Paul Pedriana, former lead engineer at EA
  • David Moore, former engineer at RAD (Granny)
  • Kenneth Scott, former art director at 343 Studios (Halo 4)
  • Seneca Menard, former technical artist at id Software
  • Paul Pepera, former environment artist at Valve and 343 Studios
  • Brian Sharp, former engineer at Bungie
  • Aaron Nicholls, former engineer at Valve, 343 Studios, and Microsoft
  • Matt Alderman, former engineer at Valve and ArenaNet
  • Cass Everitt, former GPU architect and engineer at Nvidia
  • Ross O’Dwyer, former at head of development support at Havok
  • Douglas Lanman, former research scientist at Nvidia Research and MIT Media Lab
  • …and many, many more: Scott Boyce, Gayan Ediriweera, Michael Berger, Khoi Nguyen, Aaron Toney, Bruce Cleary, Anusha Balan, Sagy Wiessbrod, Christopher Taylor, Soh Tanaka, Matt Mojica, Hyo Jin Kim, Steve Arnold, Dan Moskowitz

Which is a pretty darn impressive lineup. Click through here to see a bunch of pictures of them all playing volleyball for some reason.

Oculus also announced Lucky’s Tale, a VR-exclusive adventure from Paul Bettner, one of the creators of Words With Friends. I hope it’s a game in which we play as intrepid anthro-fox wunderkind Yalmer Lucky attempting to give animated yet remarkably articulate speeches about the real-life magic of virtual foxality. Somehow I doubt it, though.

But yes, Oculus appears to be soldiering on quite admirably, despite messy lawsuits and all that depressing slow-jam jazz. Where it’ll end up after all this effort is anyone’s guess, but if VR flops, it certainly won’t be because Oculus failed to staff up properly.

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19 Comments »

  1. Rao Dao Zao says:

    “… with a focus on building the world’s best developer and player VR ecosystem… ”

    Mmmm, I love it when you talk dirty.

  2. rikvanoostende says:

    Hey it’s our favorite John Sessions / Gary Sinise / Martin Freeman / Andy Serkis / Rowen Atkinson lookalike again!

  3. MeestaNob says:

    Jason’s attempt to work for every company in one year is off to a flier.

  4. Anthile says:

    Even if Oculus turns out to be a failure they still have enough big names to rob at least one or two casinos in Las Vegas.

  5. tvcars says:

    Its true, gaming is in a dead zone right now. We need something like this to get some inspiration and creativity back into the industry. I hope it pans out for these guys, they obviously have the passion and commitment. Lets hope they’ve got the business sense to back it all up.

  6. jezcentral says:

    How much does it cost to run a staff of this quality?

    • ThTa says:

      Probably somewhere in the single-digit millions a year, which isn’t all that much compared to the future earnings investors are apparently expecting. (That’s where the $2 billion number comes from: not the current worth, but future growth potential, same as nearly any other tech company acquisition these days.)

      • jezcentral says:

        I dunno. I would have guessed double-digit millions per year. Still, I guess there was a few share options involved to keep down costs. Those will have paid out well, eh?

      • Bassen_Hjertelos says:

        $9999999 is not that much money. Salaries are not the only expense per employee.

  7. Godwhacker says:

    Totally looks like John Sessions.

  8. Lionmaruu says:

    let me put this “kindly”, I dont give a shit about VR… See, imo, 3d gaming is already extremely shitty for 99% of the games (specially the fast pacing ones).

    VR is just a even worse and painful shit put EVEN closer to your eye!

    I get that people have to run about trying to start the new gimmick that will make lots of people spend money before they realize it is useless or worse than that (painful, nausea inducing, possible even worse). So carry on, vr people, carry on…

    • rikvanoostende says:

      Secundum quid.

    • Malarious says:

      Spoken like someone who hasn’t actually tried the Oculus. The 720p version is amazing. It’s nowhere near good enough to play games on, but if they could double or quadruple the resolution (which they’re planning on doing) it’d easily be the only type of display device I’d need. The Oculus Rift is simply exponentially better than previous VR and 3D technology. There’s a genuine sense of presence. It’s not for everyone, but it’s absolutely going to revolutionize gaming. In less than 5 years, 90% of games will be VR.

      • SwobyJ says:

        Not sure about 5 years. I think the industry will want to just mess around with it this gen, and this gen will be for the next few years at least.

        But in the 2020s? There’s clear foreshadowing all over the place. Companies are very, very interested in getting this out there, as the next ‘wave’ or ‘must have’ era of gaming.

        I’d just change your statement to either “In less than 5 years, 90% of AAA games will have a VR mode or mod.” or “In less than 10-15 years, 90% of games will be VR-centric.”

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