Valve Corporation is an American video game development and digital distribution company based in Bellevue, Washington, USA. It is the developer of the software distribution platform Steam and the Half-Life, Counter-Strike, Portal, Day of Defeat, Team Fortress, Left 4 Dead, and Dota series. Valve released fewer games in 2010s, and experimented with hardware and virtual reality (VR). They entered the hardware market in 2015 with the Steam Machine, a line of gaming computers, which sold poorly, and released the HTC Vive and Valve Index VR headsets.
Valve uses a flat structure, whereby employees decide what to work on themselves. They develop games through playtesting and iteration, describing game design as a kind of "experimental psychology". Most of Valve's revenue comes from Steam, which controlled 50 to 70% of the market for downloaded PC games in 2011 and generated an estimated $3.4 billion in 2017. By 2012, Valve employed around 250 people and was reportedly worth over US$3 billion, making it the most profitable company per employee in the United States.
Company Structure / Bias: Valve has no hierarchy - everyone is the 'boss', but only select people are hired. According to an employee, only 10,000 people in the world meet the requirements to be hired. This has created a work environment that is overwhelmingly "white and male". Because there are no managers, it can take a long time for issues to be addressed, if they are addressed at all. Employees are paid more or less every year based on reviews from their peers (stacked ranking). Women, which make up less than 10% of Valve's work force, are most often given roles with little freedom and paid significantly less.
Anti-Competitive Practices: In February 2017, the European Commission began investigating Valve and five other publishers for the use of geo-blocking through the Steam storefront and Steam product keys that prevented citizens from certain countries accessing software. Such practices would be against the Digital Single Market initiative by the European Union. Valve fought the charges, asserting that geo-blocking affects less than 3% of its games, and that it had turned off geo-blocking within the EU in 2015.
Skins Gambling: Valve was named as the defendant in two lawsuits in June and July of 2016 related to third-party gambling sites that use the Steamworks API to bet with virtual currency in the form of "skins" (cosmetic weapon textures) from Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, which can be converted to real-world money. Both suits assert Valve aided in underaged gambling. In October 2016, the Washington State Gambling Commission required Valve to stop the use of virtual skins on Steam.
Anti-Refund: The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) took action against Valve on March 29, 2016 for claiming consumers were not entitled to a refund for digitally downloaded games. Valve had excluded statutory guarantees that goods would be of acceptable quality and during the prosecution of this case, Valve implemented a refund policy for Steam purchases.
Developer: Valve takes a 30% cut of every game sale made on Steam. Their exploitable refund policy has put at least one indie dev - Emika Games, out of business. Only 3% of devs in a poll thought the 30% was fair.