Virtual reality has clearly become a focus for Valve. Even before it announced the HTC Vive, it was running developer camps at its studio where developers from around the world were invited to come and try out virtual reality technology and learn about Valve's research in the field. Oculus has been open in the past about how helpful Valve was in sharing its research into VR and Michael Abrash, formerly of Valve, is now Oculus' chief scientist. Still, it may come as a surprise to learn just how much of the company is focused on the technology: according to one Valve employee, it's about a third.
In a Reddit thread discussing the potential of using Valve's Lighthouse motion-tracking sensors with other VR headsets, one of Valve's motion-tracking specialists, Alan Yates, began replying. His responses encouraged anyone with a keen interest in VR to consider applying for a job at Valve. Yates revealed that he "was super fortunate to start at Valve right around the time Michael Abrash had begun the AR/VR research team. It was a much smaller team then than it is now, it has since grown to encompass about a third of the company, but the key individuals that solved most of the really hard technological problems and facilitated this generation of consumer headsets are still here working on the next generation."
Yates doesn't make clear whether that means people within the company have moved to the VR team or that Valve has hired in so many VR specialists that it has grown to a third of the company. Nor does he say whether game developers making VR games count towards the third of the company working on VR.
Whatever the case, though, it looks like we may need to start perceiving Valve differently. It's still running Dota 2 and Team Fortress 2 and those games aren't going anywhere, but the focus of the company may now be shifting to hardware.
When Yates describes VR like this, it's hard not to see why the change has happened: "Digitally mediated reality is one of those incredibly impactful technologies. Short of human space flight or life sciences, I can't imagine working on something of more significance right now."