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Everyone is a gamer.

Whether it’s a console or a computer, you are likely a gamer of some sort. Once a niche market, casual gaming was a genre long-ignored until the release of the Nintendo Wii. Despite ushering in a new age of gaming, however, Nintendo unintentionally created a monster: that same casual sector that helped bring profit to the industry, also created a seismic shift that altered the gaming landscape forever.

Despite the consistent revenue streams of today, there are signs that casual games are hurting the future profitability of the gaming industry. As sales increased following the release of the Wii, the industry trend has been to cater to the casual market and milk it for all it’s worth. The problem is, such a dearth of content has also created a dilution of quality. Games have frequently been rushed to market, often under the safety net of a licensed property. Because titles were purchased without discrimination, there were no checks and balances to prevent a bad game from being profitable.

In essence, the consumers hurt the gaming industry by blindly pumping money into casual games.

The economics of the gaming industry are no different than any other industry. The concept of supply-and-demand does not escape videogames, and it is the demand for casual games that has increased their supply. However, in attempting to meet their quota, developers and publishers have had to resort to desperate measures, often skimming over the creative process in order to finish a game within a rigid development cycle. The artistry of games, as a result, has been sacrificed because the ends justify the means — as long as people keep buying bad games, there is no incentive to innovate or improve.

Although casual games and bad games don’t always go hand-in-hand, the reality is that there are far too many bad casual games on the market.

I’ve played many great casual games; Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo stands as one of my favorite games of all time, along with Tetris, Boom Blox, and Game Dev Story, among others. So to say that the casual genre alone is killing the industry, is a bit extreme. However, the argument can be made that publishers’ excessive focus on the casual gamer is killing the industry. The best example is the ripple effect that Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare had on the first-person shooter; put virtually any FPS next to a screenshot of CoD4 and you’ll see how they mimicked all of CoD4′s innovations. Rather than advance the genre, however, publishers and developers have been merely content with releasing retooled versions of Modern Warfare. Consumers, in turn, responded by buying these copycats in droves, turning more to familiarity than creativity.

Familiarity keeps us warm. It’s safe. We don’t like things that are strange to us (every alien movie ever made says “hi”), and anything strange, is automatically bad (“stranger danger!”). And yet, as much as there is a segment that craves innovation, the majority shy away from it whenever the latest Madden or Call of Duty comes out.

The sad thing is, in supporting these familiar standbys alongside the casual gaming market, game companies have realized that the easiest way to profit is to combine the two elements. We’ve seen buzz words like “accessibility” and “user-friendly,” both of which are euphemisms for “easier” and “more casual.” Unfortunately, all this has done is alienate the hardcore gamer — the very same gamers who supported the industry before it was cool to play videogames.  Bear in mind, casual gaming can work; there’s a reason why many of the best-selling casual games, stay on top of the charts. But, just because a series becomes more casual, doesn’t mean the gameplay is improved.

As with the case of sports simulations, not everyone wants a casual experience, particularly when the point of a simulation is to mimic its real-life counterpart. Trust me, if everyone could play in the NFL, they would. But since they can’t, that’s why they turn to their copies of Madden to live out their gridiron dreams.

With the rise of casual gaming, we have seen the dumbing-down of storied franchises and the dilution of an industry. While the industry is more profitable than it’s ever been, we’re also seeing it at its weakest. There is very little room for innovation, as innovation is for those who can afford it. And with publishers always looking to minimize development costs, developers can ill-afford to innovate without a damn good sales pitch.

This is not to say that there aren’t good, creative games on the market today that appeal to many demographics. Rather, there simply aren’t enough of these games because the powers-that-be have dictated that their pockets matter more than our yearning for the quality of yesteryear.

source : http://iamthefranchise.wordpress.com/2011/06/22/are-casual-games-killing-innovation/

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In 2012 we will face the beginning of the end of game consoles as hardware assets. Gamers nowadays know how to use the Internet and how to take the most out of any device. Portable game consoles have already faced it: slow launches, degrading sales and hardware price-cuts. In 2012 we will feel a new trend: a decline in all game consoles sales, both portable and non-portable.

The Game is Changing

Slow starts and declining sales of Nintendo 3DS and Sony PlayStation Vita were followed by price-cuts despite of the fact that platform holders said in advance that games for them would be more advanced than titles for smartphones and tablets. The reality has proven that the claims by Nintendo and Sony were essentially incorrect. The launches were not accompanied by breakthrough titles and were not strong to say at least. In 2012, we will feel the same about home game consoles, such as Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlaysStation 3 and Nintendo Wii/Wii U. In fact, the launch of Wii U will show whether the consoles are on the decline or not.

The mass success of Apple iPhone/iPad as well similar devices like Samsung Galaxy-series smartphones and tablets with proper graphics hardware has proven that they are capable of supporting advanced games with near-HD quality of graphics. Indeed, those SoCs feature two Cortex-A9 general processor cores as well as PowerVR advanced graphics with leading-edge feature-set.

Current system-on-chips, which power Apple, Samsung and other devices, have a lot of capabilities (but sometimes lack elementary things for PC graphics like anisotropic filtration), but the next-generation of system-on-chips will support even more, Nvidia Tegra 3 as well as Apple A5X SoCs that support acceleration of full-HD 3D graphics are probably the best example of what advanced chips for smartphones and tablets can do and how powerful can they be.

In terms of hardware, it is relatively easy to install next-gen chips from media tablets and smartphones into TVs, Blu-ray disc players and other consumer electronics. The new Apple iPad  has screen with 2056*1536 resolution, which is beyond full HD – 1920*1080. Perhaps, the same A5x chip can be installed into potential future Apple HDTVs and thus provide it with ultimate gaming capabilities that no other TVs support.

Moreover, the costs of games for portable and non-portable video game consoles are incomparable to cost those for smartphones. For example, Prince of Persia Warrior Within Costs €2.99/$3.99 on Apple App Store, but it costs $15.50 for Sony PSP and $32.62 for Sony PS3. Loads of games, such as popular Creative Mobile’s Drag Racing, or Z2Live’s MetalStorm: Wingman are simply free.

Powerful Hardware Becomes Affordable

With highly integrated and relatively inexpensive system-on-chips that can handle complex computations and high-definition 1080p graphics declines of pricing, it will be possible to integrate them into variety of electronics and thus make it competitive against video game consoles from major platform holders.

Samsung is a bit ahead of Apple when it comes to leading-edge chips, which is why the company can install its latest Exynos SoCs – including the Exynos 5250  with two ARM Cortex-A15 « Eagle » cores – into its TV-sets earlier than Apple releases its TVs. Why don’t hardware makers with established platforms install Exynos-like hardware into its devices?

« I do not see any technological obstacles in terms of integration of high-performance chipsets into TVs, » said a highly-informed source at a major consumer electronics company.

Bills of materials (BOMs) of contemporary tablets clearly show that display, touchscreen, battery, cameras, case, mechanical materials and building costs can account for around 60% of the whole BOM. Hence, key electronics of the new Apple iPad that allows to launch games and apps, according to EETimes estimates, costs just about $52.5. This cost can relatively easily be integrated into mainstream and high-end TVs.

TV-sets with integrated key chips, such as Apple A5X (eventually, A6 or A7) as well as Samsung Exynos 5250, from next-generation tablets and smartphones would be able to handle 1080p games. Given the fact that they will utilize iOS or Google Android-like operating systems, games and apps developed for those TVs will also work on smartphones and tablets, providing software designers ultimate installed base that will be comparable to those of major non-portable game consoles or even higher.

The World Is Changing

« I think that the future spans around mobile devices and social networks. Therefore, all apps compliant to these [major] platforms are ought to progress. The idea is that the apps for [mobile] devices/social networks, browser games should gradually merge into something united and, eventually, seize this world, » said Serhiy Slyeptsov, chief executive officer at Creative Mobile.

In terms of hardware, Apple’s third-generation iPad (and probably sixth-generation iPhone) supports just more than high-definition video output. During its launch, Mike Cappls, the president of Epic Games, already pointed out that the latest media tablet has more random access memory and higher resolution than the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Of course, it took Apple around six years to achieve that, but with the current progress of smartphones and tablets it is easy to foresee crossover in terms of software quality between devices and non-portable game consoles in the coming quarters or years.

The main advantage of video game consoles is their long life-cycle that can be six to ten years. TV-sets also have long lifespans and provided that they feature good enough SoCs inside that can handle advanced games, they will easily provide three-to-five years cycles, which will be just what the doctor ordered for game developers. For example, many of new iOS games are compatible with iPhone 3GS, which is three years old. Therefore, the same can happen with embedded video game platforms.

With improving quality of hardware and software as well as cross-platform compatibility of apps and games, mobile and embedded gaming platforms will clearly press special-purpose game consoles. But before that happens, many gamers will simply slowdown purchase of games for PlayStation, Xbox and Wii and will play them on tablets instead. This will happen already this year and will mean the beginning of the end for video game consoles.

source : http://www.xbitlabs.com/news/other/display/20120309204823_Trends_of_12_The_End_Begins_for_Video_Game_Consoles.html

 

Sort out these issues and the model would be far more popular among the core


Earlier this week
 Cevat Yerli, CEO of Crytek, said he thinks triple-A experiences on par with the studio’s Crysis games can accommodate the free-to-play business model – even on consoles.

Although Yerli points out that the tug-of-war battle between digital and traditional boxed retail needs to be settled first, he indicated he’s still confident F2P will thrive on next-generation gaming platforms, be they traditional consoles or new tablet devices.

Tencent, a Hong Kong based mobile and social games giant, also acquired a ‘minority stake’ in Epic Games. Although the Gears of War studio has said it will continue to operate independently, the implications of one of the industry’s strongest triple A game developers laying deeper foundations in the social gaming and free-to-play space shouldn’t be dismissed.

Comments made by Epic’s Tim Sweeney agreed that free-to-play « is going to be the way that almost all games will be distributed worldwide ».

« All these western developers spending 30 million to develop these games for dedicated consoles – all of these companies are going to be invading the Asian markets within the next five years or so and they’ll be free to play, worldwide, global products. … The only way to survive is to go global, » he said.

Decision makers are no doubt taking note of the whirlwind successes of games such as Team Fortress 2, which was adapted to accommodate the F2P model and has developed a thriving community of players that regularly exchange real money for virtual items.

Then there’s the tremendous success of MOBA title League of Legends, which recently took over World of Warcraft in monthly active players and headlines high-stakes competitive gaming tournaments alongside StarCraft 2.

The free-to-play revolution is inevitable and the impending changing of the tide is as much exciting as it is unnerving. There are pervading concerns with free-to-play gaming that it would be remiss to ignore. In order to make free-to-play appealing to the core games audience (which, by the way, has an ARPU that the likes of Zynga could only dream about), then CVG believes the model must overcome these hurdles..

read more at : http://www.computerandvideogames.com/356036/features/the-five-biggest-problems-with-free-to-play-gaming

The video game industry is one of the most powerful in all of entertainment globally, a multibillion dollar juggernaut that is now larger than Hollywood.  From powerhouse consoles like the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 to smartphones and Facebook, gaming has become truly ubiquitous and a major driver of innovation.  But the rise of the industry was never a sure thing, and in fact, at one point, the entire market cratered.  Major players were put out of business, the home console market vanished, and the entire art form nearly disintegrated.  The Video Game Crash of 1983 came close to wiping video games off the map for good.  But instead of being the death of a fad, the lessons learned from the astoundingly bad business practices of early gaming allowed for a renaissance of the medium.  In many ways, the gaming world we know and love today was shaped directly from the wreckage of 1983, when the entire industry ran out of lives.

In the early ‘80s, these newfangled “video games” were changing the face of American business.  The biggest name in the industry was Atari, and in only three years, their annual revenue had gone from $75 million to $2 billion.  That made Atari the fast-growing company in the history of the United States.  Games were making money hand over fist at a rate that defied belief.  Nothing had ever caught on that quickly with audiences before, or that profitably.

In fact, it had grown too quickly for its own good.  The actual business of gaming was still very young.  Nobody was really sure what it was that audiences wanted, how to properly monetize their products, or how to reward their own employees.  All they really knew was that, clearly, kids liked setting the high score.  So by the ‘80s, when the sheer money in the market was obvious, everybody jumped on the bandwagon.  Atari’s Video Computer System, also known as the Atari 2600, was dominant.  But it was competing with nearly a dozen other home consoles, including the Magnavox Odyssey 2, the ColecoVision, the Mattel Intellivision, and a host of others.  Some of these companies were electronics companies, some were toy companies, and some were actually switching markets completely just to get on board.  The market was completely oversaturated with consoles — and yet, more kept coming.  The industry was too young to realize that it was shooting itself in the foot.  And still, more kept coming.

Meanwhile, all of these consoles suddenly found themselves competing with another brand-new technology: the personal computer.  Unlike the specialized consoles, PCs were generalized devices that could be used as both business machines and gaming platforms, which made them a better overall investment for many households.  PCs also had long-term memory, which allowed players to save their progress instead of having to start over every time.  So not only were these numerous consoles competing with each other, but also the exploding PC market.

So clearly, the industry didn’t yet have the best business practices for their hardware.  Perhaps it wasn’t a surprise, then, that they didn’t have the best practices for their software, either.  At the time, Atari and the others did not want to recognize or reward their top programmers.  These were the guys who actually made the games, and in that era, each game was made by a single programmer.  A programmer would typically only make $20-30,000 a year, even if his game went on to sell millions.  And he wouldn’t even be appreciated for his work, because credits weren’t allowed.  Atari wanted Atari to be the only “creator” associated with any work.  Individuals were merely cogs in the machine.  By 1979, four programmers had had enough.  That year, David Crane, Larry Kaplan, Bob Whitehead, and Alan Miller all left Atari to start their own company, which they called: Activision.

It would become a watershed moment for the industry, and one of the key causes of the coming Crash at the same time.  Before Activision, every game was first-party, that is, all games for Atari were made by Atari, all games for the Intellivision were made by Mattel, and so on.  Because of that, Atari and the others sold their consoles for cheap, but expected to make their money back on software sales.  Activision was the world’s first third-party developer, and as such, if a consumer bought an Activision game for the Atari 2600, Atari wouldn’t see a dime.  The Atari console had no locks on it; anyone could make a cartridge to work on it.  Third-party development completely shattered the business model the entire industry was based on.  Terrified, Atari did what all big companies do: it sued.  Unfortunately for them, Atari lost.  In 1982, the US judicial system publicly affirmed third-party developers’ right to exist.  Which meant that, once again, everybody jumped on the bandwagon.

So not only was the market saturated with different consoles, now, it was absolutely flooded with games.  Companies that had no entertainment experience whatsoever — like Quaker Oats and Purina — started making video games, because they seemed like an endless gold mine.  With too many games came the inevitable: a dramatic drop in prices.  Entire companies sprang up with the intention of making bad games that they could sell cheap.  And none of these sales went back to the companies that actually made the consoles.

Still, it all might have worked out if Atari had maintained its standard of quality.  There will always be bad games, but if Atari could prove that their products were superior, audiences would remain loyal.  But after the success of Activision, Atari’s best programmers left in droves, fed up with low pay and no recognition.  And then, on top of the talent vacuum, the worst happened: business executives started losing touch with the real world.

For example, in 1981 Atari acquired the license to the arcade sensation of the year, Pac-Man.  So, the executives wanted a version of Pac-Man on the Atari 2600.  Seems like a good idea, right?  It is, unless you do it the way Atari did it.  First of all, Atari only got the license late in the year, but wanted the game out in time for Christmas, which gave the programmer almost no time to actually make the game.  Second, Atari calculated that the game would sell 12 million copies… but they had only sold 10 million consoles!  They actually believed that people would want the game so badly, that two million people who didn’t have a console would buy one just for Pac-Man.

On top of all that, they didn’t ask one of their own programmers to make the game, possibly because all their best talent had already left.  Instead, they contracted an outside freelancer.  The problem was, they agreed to pay him a royalty for every unit manufactured.  Not sold: manufactured.  And they’d already promised to make 12 million copies.  In other words, the programmer was already guaranteed a giant payday before he’d even made the game, which didn’t give him a big incentive to make the game any good, especially since he didn’t have enough time to make a good game anyway.

The result was a catastrophe.  It was slow.  It was ugly.  It barely resembled the game people had fallen in love with.  The game had been a success in arcades for its vibrant colors, smooth animations, and endearing sound effects.  This game… had none of those.  Atari printed its 12 million copies, and only sold 7 million.  And while that was still good enough to make it the top selling game in their console’s history, it left them with 5 million unsold cartridges sitting in their warehouse.  5 million.  The console’s second best-selling game — Pitfall by Activision — only sold 4 million.  Pac-Man was a disaster.

And apparently, they didn’t learn from it.  The next year, the business executives signed another deal, this one with Steven Spielberg to make an ET game.  ET promised to be one of the biggest movie hits of the year, and it was thought that a game based on it would also sell really well.  Again, not a bad idea.  But once again, they gave their programmer almost no time to do it.  Specifically, six weeks to design, program, quality test, manufacture, and ship.  Even by the standards of the time, that was insane.

On top of this, to get the rights to ET, Atari paid Spielberg $25 million up front.  Then on top of that, Atari ordered 5 million copies to be produced.  Only Pac-Man had sold more than 5 million copies in Atari’s history.  Once again, the executives believed that the strong ET name alone would send people in droves to buy the game.

It didn’t.  After getting burned by Pac-Man, audiences didn’t buy the game just based on the name.  They waited to see if it was any good.  And it shouldn’t be a surprise that a game made in only six weeks resulted in one of the worst pieces of interactive entertainment ever produced.  It was so terrible… that almost nobody bought it.  Once again, Atari had made a huge investment that resulted in 5 million copies sitting in a warehouse.

So, Atari was making horrible games, and selling them at full price.  Meanwhile, competitors were also making horrible games, but selling them at bargain bin prices.  Therefore, no one bought Atari’s own games anymore.

It all led to Atari’s December 1982 earnings statement.  They told shareholders that, due to all these incredibly negative factors and horrible business decisions, the company… would still grow by 10-15%.  Which is actually, great!  The problem was, before the announcement, they had told shareholders to expect 50% growth.  It was a huge shock to Wall Street.

And it sunk the whole boat.  Stock in Atari’s owner, Warner, crashed.  Sales of consoles and games, both oversaturated, tanked across the board.  Rumor has it that, unable to sell their tens of millions of surplus cartridges, Atari sent them all to a landfill in New Mexico, bulldozed them, and then buried them in cement to cover up the embarassment.  Atari had been the banner of the gaming revolution, once upon a time the fastest-growing company in American history.  Now, it was $500 million dollars in debt.  This was the Video Game Crash of 1983.

And so, the gaming fad should have ended.  Analysts predicted that it was game over, that audiences had moved on, that investors and retailers alike should look elsewhere.  But the little medium struggled on.  PCs continued their meteoric rise to prominence, and computer games never suffered any recession; it was this platform that allowed Activision to survive.  Arcades, too, continued on strongly.  Eventually, a few ambitious businessmen in Japan dared to think the impossible.  Maybe home consoles weren’t just a boom-and-bust fashion.  Maybe audiences really did want dedicated, powerful entertainment devices.  Maybe Atari’s horrendous business decisions were more to blame than the medium itself.  Maybe it was time for their company to take the plunge.

The company was called… Nintendo.  They had already released a home console in Japan, the Famicom, which had sold well.  But to bring it to the jaded American population, they’d have to reinstill confidence in the very idea of home systems.  They did it by locking down their console.  Unlike the open Atari 2600, which anybody could make a game for, the Nintendo Entertainment System would only work with cartridges that had a specific chip in them.  Only Nintendo itself would hand out these chips.  In other words, Nintendo would have full approval over any games coming to its system, and could reject inferior products.  Aside from making sure that Nintendo games were fun across the board, it also helped them out from the business side.  Atari had never seen a dime from third-party developers.  But since only Nintendo had the magic chips, a third-party developer would have to agree to pay Nintendo royalties if they wanted to publish games on the NES.  Atari had treated third-party developers like the enemy.  Nintendo saw them as an untapped gold mine that could add to the diversity and quality of their console.

And the rest is history.  The NES destroyed Wall Street’s expectations of failure by becoming a towering commercial success and an icon of the medium.  By proving that the home console market was never dead, just misunderstood, Nintendo began a legacy leading straight to modern powerhouse systems.

Today, industry-wide acceptance of third-party development is the norm, all of whom are monetized by the console-makers by their locked systems.  The industry has enough experience under its belt to avoid the glaring mistakes of the past.  But remember, this is not because publishers are smarter now than they were before; merely, that they have the benefit of hindsight.  The decisions that led to the crash of an entire industry have been studied and studied again, until they have become unthinkable in the today’s boardrooms.  There will always be games that don’t sell as well as expected, but you will never see warehouses full of unsold product again.  The multibillion dollar juggernaut is as strong and vibrant as it is today directly because of the Video Game Crash of 1983, the year the art form we all know and love seemed to die for good… and then, against all odds, respawned to fight another day.

source : http://www.insidegamingdaily.com/2011/02/24/all-your-history-the-video-game-crash-of-1983-continue/

By now, you’ve probably heard about the anonymous BioWare employee rumor circulating the Internet yesterday. We saw it but I wanted to dig up some more information before bringing it to you. As a journalist, I’m not one for spreading rumors with no basis to the source.

This article on Bettor.com claimed that an anonymous BioWare employee blamed the fans for the current state of SWTOR. The author, Gordon Miles says:

A Bioware Austin employee has lashed out at fans regarding the state of the recently launched massively multiplayer online (MMO) Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) according to GamerTechTv.

SWTOR or ‘Tortanic’ is being called one of the biggest blunders of this generation as Electronic Arts (EA) has thrown away over $500 million of development and marketing funds for the project and will now have to make it free to play because of the rapidly decreasing player count.

The failure of the MMO has caused a significant drop in EA’s share price and has lead to major layoffs at Bioware Austin. The Bioware employee, who wishes to remain anonymous, has stated that fans are in part responsible for how the MMO turned out.

“EA blames us and to some extent they’re right to. But it was fan feedback from the day we opened the forums that encouraged us to design it for the fans the way it is and that included making it more like Kotor then an MMO like Wow,” he stated mentioning that gamers actually wanted SWTOR to be more like Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR), a single player role playing game by Bioware before it was acquired by EA, rather than World of Warcraft (WoW).

Fans have called him out and claim that Bioware is just pointing fingers for their own failure as they opened the official forums on September 12, 2011 where as the game came out three months later on December 20, 2011. It is hard to believe that three months worth of fan feedback could influence the game that was in development since 2006.

Yet one thing that jumped out to the writer in me immediately was no source for this quote. An “anonymous” employee just doesn’t cut it. I could make up any quote I feel like and say an “anonymous employee” said so. SWTOR game update 1.4 is going to introduce pink fluffy unicorn mounts, according to an anonymous BioWare Austin employee. (Don’t hold your breath waiting on that one).

So I put on my sleuth hat and became Detective Lisa for a bit and was able to track this rumor down to its origin.

Mr. Miles said “GamerTV” was the source of this quote but since he didn’t link it, I had to go look it up. He’s referring to this story which says this is the reason the game may be looking at a Free to Play model coming up soon.

Now that story linked to a Massively story that covered the recent layoffs at BioWare Austin. Are you dizzy yet? In the comment section of this Massively story, there was the following comment:

I know many won’t believe me. but, I work at Bioware. best part for me is coming here to read fans replies. I won’t tell you much and I don’t care if you believe me. So here is “what’s” going on were I work.

If you havent noticed the interviews we had given sometime back had been removed. mainly, the interviews that gave it “away” that we are looking at adding F2P model. we are indeed adding free to play to the game. now the best part for me is anonymity I have that allows me to be open.

We will have mainly have a “fluff” shop for the new direction with F2P. but much of the legacy system will have the option to purchase those “perk’s” (the main reason credit cost are high to slow progression until we patch F2P) as well many parts of the game will have new content that requires you purchase are type of “coinage” from the cash shop so you can buy the access to “special” content/quest. now new companions will also be in the shop. but due to us getting down sized and the staff changes a small team is working on these F2P changes.

I don’t want anyone to be upset by this. but many of these changes had been in the “planning stages” for many months since the sharp drop in subscribers. many parts of the game will cost money to access. for example you can unlock the new “cathar” race in your legacy. but buying the unlock, it will cost 10$ US

So we are all pretty upset here. we know Daniel and Jimmy many more are next round of layoffs. EA blames us and to some extent they’re right to. but it was fan feedback from the day we opened the forums that encouraged us to design it for the fans the way it is and that included making it more like Kotor then an MMO like Wow. Also from what I have heard in the halls, Starwars Galaxies was shut down due to the fact are talks with LA,EA suits ecouraged the new guy at LA to increase the licensing fee at renewal time. it was a move to remove any direct competiton to TOR.

Sorry guys gotta go but be good to each other.

Mmmkkkkkayyy… right from the start, a lot of readers called it bogus. But as more and more fan sites, blogs and news sites started to pick up on the story, some players began to debate over whether or not this was an actual BioWare employee and if there was any truth to the comment.

Here’s where it gets tricky… we know that the Internet, by definition, breeds trolls. We also know that with the many recent layoffs at BioWare Austin, there could be some disgruntled former employees who want to make the whole company and the game look bad. There are any number of possibilities when it comes to this ‘anonymous poster’ so we can speculate all day long but we won’t really know the truth unless the poster decides to come forward and no longer be anonymous. All we really know for sure is the information we get from personal experience and from official interviews.

Anyone can post a story on the Internet; this doesn’t make it true.

What We Know is True

This brings us to a valid source with CNBC.com’s interview with John Riccitiello, CEO of EA. One of the most interesting quotes from this interview:

We had indicated in the last earnings call which was eleven weeks ago, that there was some softness inStar Wars. Our conclusion was that we had a great product in Star Wars, but that the subscription model in a world of free-to-play was challenging, which is why we announced in July the first 15 levels [that] are free-to-play.

What’s exciting about content as great as the Star Wars content is when we expose it to people, they really want it. And so, we’ve begun to work with different models to bring more users into the game.

I don’t think it’s a concern for now.

So there you have it folks. It must be a slow SWTOR news week when the rumors take over. We don’t really know any more or less than we did before this rumor began.

Read more at http://www.swtorstrategies.com/2012/07/anonymous-bioware-employee-rumor-are-fans-to-blame.html#Tyys9ZmrSP0LCk7e.99

For those who are not familiar with the site,Glassdoor.com is essentially a repository of information on companies—anonymous reviews, salaries, interview questions, etc. contributed by former and current employees—for job seekers seeking an « inside look » into those companies. In addition to that primary purpose, Glassdoor might actually be one of the most compelling sources discussing the inner workings of the gaming industry.

Let’s check out some of the more colorful entries for most of the biggest companies in gaming, shall we?

There are, of course, a number of caveats with the ratings and reviews system.Perhaps foremost being that all the user-contributed reviews on the site it is anonymously contributed. Glassdoor admits in their FAQ that they are « unable to fully verify the identity of an anonymous user, » but they « require each user to certify their employee relationship to the company when they post any content » and require someone to be registered with the site with a verified email address. Finally, they state « active community moderation and our commitment to review every post » severely mitigate the risk of inaccurate information going onto the site.

Chances that a review is completely made up are small, but reviews may not necessarily be indicative of an entire company. Glassdoor’s reviews do not always identify the location or title of the employee providing the review. In the case of companies with multiple studios and teams, the culture can easily vary from studio to studio and team to team within a studio.

Not to mention that perspective within a team can easily differ depending on role—a developer recently noted that « managers tend to be more upbeat, and line-level designers, programmers and testers more pessimistic. » Culture can also change over time—there are five years of reviews on Glassdoor.

Finally, Glassdoor requires a user to register or log in with the site to read anything beyond a couple of reviews, and my heavily-curated look into the site’s reviews is tending towards the more interesting bits rather than any sort of comprehensive roundup.

* * *

Activision

Company Overview
Average Rating (out of 5): 2.8 (« OK »)
36% approve of CEO Bobby Kotick

« Successful at serial products, in danger of talent drain, » written on April 04, 2011 by a current employee at Activision’s Santa Monica headquarters.

Cons:
– milking the margins comes first. So, if you love games, be prepared to leave that love at the door

– the project you’re on matters a lot more than it should, even if you’re doing as much or less than someone on a less prominent title. recognition and reward follows the revenue-generators only.

« It always felt like the execs just want to be in hollywood. »

– all other departments will get recognition before production (if production even gets recognized). it shows in the bonus/incentive structure. it shows in the promotion rate. it shows in all the company events that the executives speak in.

– it always felt like the execs just want to be in hollywood. they make frequent, huge expenditures to play with hollywood instead of investing it back into the company (new IPs?) or its employees.

Activision Publishing

Company Overview
Average Rating: 2.2 (« Dissatisfied »)
67% approve of CEO Eric Hirshberg

« I learned a lot, but I would never do it again, » written five weeks ago by a former employee at Activision Publishing in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.

Pros – I learned more in my first 6 months than most people learn in years about the gaming industry. As an Associate Producer, I was put in charge of games nearly right away with a minimal of oversight. If you do well, you’ll quickly get the opportunity to assist/lead multiple titles at a time. You’ll get the opportunity to provide input and opinions on high profile titles as well.

Cons – The hours and crunch will…be…brutal. My first year, I put in 4 months of 6-7 [days] per week crunch (10-14 hour days early on, ramped up to 12-16 hour days near releases). My second year, I crunched nearly non-stop for 7 months, including more than a few monstrous 24+ hour marathon shifts. Due to the fact that my off-site developers and vendors were everywhere from East Europe to China, I was constantly working off hours to set up conference calls at any time of the day or night.

Due to the location in Minnesota, wages are not competitive to the rest of the industry. Pay and work/life balance are both common complaints from within this studio. The culture can be very aggressive and the humor can be quite scathing, even more than other gamedevs/publishing studios.

BioWare

Company Overview
Average Rating: 3.8 (« Satisfied »)
82% approve of CEO Ray Muzyka

« A stimulating company that focuses on quality of life over speed of production, » written by a former BioWare Austin associate designer five weeks ago.

Cons – The large corporate mogul of EA opens doors but closes independent thought. Only on the micro-level may creativity thrive, for revolutionary ideas that can be iterated on rapidly in a small company setting turn into months-long trudge of certification, documentation, and stagnation. Long « assembly-line » like production pipelines turn great ideas into watered-down results, quashing the desire for creativity into production, as the outcome of both becomes identical.

Blizzard Entertainment

Company Overview
Average Rating: 3.3 (« OK »)
81% approve of CEO Mike Morhaime

« Blizzard is a sweat-shop, I feel sorry for anyone that has to work there, » written by a former employee at Blizzard’s Irvine HQ on August 19, 2008.

Cons – Ok, so the list:

When they fire people, they don’t do it quietly, they send an e-mail to the entire company saying « so-and-so is no longer an employee of Blizzard Entertainment, as with all guests, please escort them at all times when on company property ». You’ve gotta be kidding me! you think that boosts morale? what a joke.

« When they fire people, they don’t do it quietly. »

Regarding career development, I asked the lead game designer for WoW about what it would take for me to move from being a tools programmer to a game developer. My problem was I had no experience, and all job requirements say you need at least 2 shipped titles. Guess what his answer was!? He told me « to be quite honest, you’ll probably have to leave Blizzard, get some experience else-where, then come back to work here ». You’ve gotta be freakin’ kidding me if you consider that career growth, and advancement opportunities.

« Its too bad to find out the reality of Blizzard, » written by a current employee at Blizzard on June 5, 2012.

Cons – – Really bad management overall.

– Poor communication within and across departments and teams.

– Very political. Politics over logic, professionalism, and work ethics. Whether you can do a good job, finish your work on time, or have the knowledge to do the work is much less important than you getting along with people and being liked by your supervisor and key people in the company.

– People there do not understand what professionalism is. From HR to most of management. Most of them are not on top of and do not resolve issues (production or management issues). They have tons of meetings to talk about it and only to come out of those meetings to do nothing.

– Extremely inefficient. Waste a lot of time and effort to do very little.

– Poor pipeline and workflow. Designed by people who do not have the knowledge or experience, but yet has a huge ego.

– A lot of « old-timer » employees that has been with the company for a long time that do not do much work but yet, because of Blizzard’s emphasize [sic] on seniority and loyalty, their jobs are very secure. They happen to be the most political as well.

– Poor planning and executions. This is from art / art direction to actual product development and production.

– Poor career path and growth opportunities.

– Methods used to track and measure performance is a failure. Performance reviews are pretty useless and there are nothing like a 360 review. Overall, there is a huge lack of accountability throughout the company.

– Overwork employees. (multiple all nighters during crunch time is not uncommon. Salary employees do not get overtime and it does not matter how many all nighters they do.)

– Below industry standard salary.

Capcom Vancouver

Company Overview
Average Rating: 2.5 (« OK »)

« Good place to learn what not to do, » written by a former employee on May 5, 2011.

Cons – – Overall quality of work is very poor. At least from a developers standpoint. 10k lines of code for a player. Come on hasn’t anyone there heard of design patterns, object oriented development. Just abysmal design. Its a wonder they can final games.

– Design decisions all over the map. Once month the game is X then next month game is Y. Then you wonder why things take so long.

– Work life balance is not very good.

– Terrible pay. They look for junior staff and underpay them. They keep pay low even after you excel and can demonstrate senior capabilities.

CCP

Company Overview
Average Rating: 3.0 (« OK »)

« Too much kool-aid, not enough substance, » written by a former employee of the company’s Georgia studio March 29, 2012.

Cons – The biggest issue at CCP is the distinct lack of true transparency from top management down to the employees who actually build the games. There are far too many secret back-room meetings that never get communicated out to the rest of us, even though they tell us that transparency is important. In a nutshell, top management are the type to tell you: do as we say, not as we do. Loving nonsensical pie charts, bar graphs, and point plots is a requirement to understand anything about the development of the game.

« There are far too many secret back-room meetings… »

If you’re not working on EVE, then no one really cares what you’re doing. It’s the religion of the studio and if you don’t worship it, then you won’t have much in common with a lot of the employees. If you’re Icelandic, then you’re cool! Life is great. make sure to slip into Icelandic tongue around your American colleagues so we have no idea what you’re talking about. If you’re American… that’s nice. Go get some coffee and keep working.

Codemasters

Company Overview
Average Rating: 2.5 (« OK »)
0% approve of CEO Rod Cousens

« No money, no direction, no leadership, » written by a former employee six weeks ago.

Cons – Incredibly weak management. Zero strategic direction. Low salaries, poor promotion prospects.

Advice to Senior Management – Employ some execs who actually have a business degree.

Crytek

Company Overview
Average Rating: 2.8 (« OK »)

« A mediocre stepping stone studio for most developers, » written by a former employee of Crytek’s flagship Frankfurt studio four days ago.

Cons – – Executive management has consistently shown their lack of business acumen by not having a clear strategy for the company for years. This resulted multiple times in changes in direction, rework, overtime and missed objectives

– Hardcore crunching at Crytek is common currency. It’s not just « some overtime » to meet important milestones, it’s a terrifying mandated lifestyle and a culture of quantity, not quality. Understandably, this results in a cyclical exodus of inordinate amounts of talent

– Salaries, benefits and perks are significantly below par for a AAA studio in the games industry

EA

Company Overview
Average Rating: 3.2 (« OK »)
56% approve of CEO John Riccitiello

« EA itself is a great place to work but Tiburon isn’t necessarily, » written by a current employee at EA Tiburon on May 14, 2012.

Cons – – Tiburon has a reputation for underpaying their employees, sometimes by 30-40% if they’ve been at the company for longer than 5 years.

– Managers see this as a badge of honor and work towards paying employees as little as possible to look good for senior management.

– A quote heard quite often by managers when deciding whether to increase someone’s salary is « He/She should be happy. They already make quite a bit of money as it is. » Managers seem to take it personally if an engineer makes more than they do.

« It’s impossible to tell how to get promoted. »

– I don’t work on the most high profile game at Tiburon, but I’ve been told that 5-6 of our most talented people on the team actually make 25-30% less than their market value and less than a lot of their teammates.

– It’s impossible to tell how to get promoted. Even if your direct manager gives you a list of things to work on and you improve greatly in every area, you manager has to go through 10 other people that don’t know you or understand what you do. It’s inevitable that someone in that group will randomly say no to you getting promoted.

– Hours are insane. We have projects where employees work upwards of 90 hours a week and they never get to see their families at any point.

– Managers at Tiburon talk about the ‘culture’ there, but there is no culture. The only culture is too many hours and making average games.

« An Ok place, but virtually no chance for career development, » written by a current employee at EA Burnaby on October 31, 2011.

Cons – Company has a policy against internal mobility. That means if company has a vacancy for a Senior SE and you are fit for it, you can not apply for a position, unless you quit the company first. I did not believe it at first, talked to multiple managers and HR to get as many confirmations as possible. That’s true: the only way to get to a higher position in EA is to sit tight and wait for your manager to promote you (when someone higher up quits).

And yet again, the huge « Not Invented Here » syndrome. Experience you get in EA has virtually no value for the outer world. So you can build project with the internal EA tool, you can debug EA’s internal memcached copycat, you know everything about three different internal frameworks – good for you, but you will never find another company to use them.

Management constantly swings between trends. I’ve been involved in a project which switched project planning tool 4 times in just 8 months. It also changed application framework halfway through, btw.

Another widely known fact is the overtimes. Management is fine with 4 hours of « beer Friday », but it will ask you to come up on « Saturday » for the 4 hours of work. And you don’t have an option to work full day on Friday and skip the overtime.

« Interesting work but quality suffers when deadlines are near, » written by a former EA Burnaby software on July 21, 2011.

Turnover of staff is high. It’s not unheard of to sack an entire team then rehire them a few weeks later when the management realizes they did need them after all.

« Above average game studio, » written by a former EA Los Angeles software engineer on July 13, 2011.

Cons – Easy to get lost in the masses and end up being treated like a dispensable commodity. Once heard a Senior Development Director say something like the following, « Unreal Engineers are a dime a dozen. » What he meant was that qualified gaming engineers with unreal experience were easy to find and hire. Which isn’t supported by the amount of time and effort it took them to hire qualified unreal engineers. My impression was that he didn’t see the value of the engineers already on staff, he saw them as a commodity to be bought and discarded when he no longer had a use for them.

Gameloft

Company Overview
Average Rating: 2.8 (« OK »)
56% approve of CEO Michel Guillemot

« Avoid at all costs, the worst company I have ever worked for, » written five weeks ago by a current employee.

« I think this is the Enron of video game companies. »

Pros – All my colleagues were great, but I would often come to the office and find out that my software licenses have expired. So I would have nothing to do for days ( so far so good right – except I had to work straight through weekends and nights to compensate ). So after a few cycles of this they would cancel the game or try to do something else.

Cons – Steer clear – I think this is the Enron of video game companies.

Advice to Senior Management – Find something else to do.

« Slave labour, » written by a current employee on March 31, 2012.

Cons – Salaries are below standard, they will tell you upon hiring that they talk raises at 6months and 1year, this is a lie.

Overtime is insane, you will be staying weeknights and weekends unpaid for weeks to months at a time. Projects go way over schedule because the people in HQ have no experience in games. Rampant nepotism in Paris means the people you answer to and who micromanage your every move have no idea what they’re doing. Expect projects to take twice as long as the projected date and for half the project time to be overtime.

HQ also has no creative vision and will shoot down any new ideas the team comes up with in favour carbon-copying whatever the competition just came up with. They also continually make changes with no consideration to dependencies or time lines. Expect entire design changes to happen a month before project end, and when you tell them the changes will require more time to implement they will pile on more changes while you’re at it.

Management just does whatever Paris asks of them, they have no intention of defending their employees and continually pressure them into unpaid overtime.

Advice to Senior Management – Give your studios autonomy, it is obvious that Paris is incompetent in every way shape and form. The producers there seem to be under the impression that development teams perform some sort of black magic to create games and that design changes can be made in the blink of an eye. If you still can’t let go just fire all your producers, they don’t do anything of merit anyways.

LucasArts

Company Overview
Average Rating: 3.0 (« OK »)

« LucasArts…it ain’t what it used to be…but it could get better, » written by a current employee on August 27, 2008.

There are many high level management types who have little to no game development experience. On top of that lack of experience, they seem to genuinely enjoy making decisions that affect everyone downstream from them without taking those people into consideration (i.e. talking over said changes).

I have never seen so many ridiculous charts, graphs, documents and procedures accrue over such a short span in my life. There was a document on how to have a meeting (purportedly to simplify the process) that looked like the flow chart for programming the software to run a nuclear reactor. It was that complicated, not to mention so colorful that it was unreadable and also appeared radioactive.

Microsoft

Company Overview
Average Rating: 3.5 (« Sastified »)
47% approve of CEO Steve Ballmer

[Note: As you may have noticed, there are no Microsoft reviews in this piece. Unfortunately, all of Microsoft’s reviews are lumped together-regardless of division-and there is no particular way to discern which of the company’s 3,659 reviews are pertinent to the Xbox group.]

NCSoft

Company Overview
Average Rating: 2.5 (« Dissatisfied »)
25% approve of CEO Kim Tack-Jin

« Terrible environment, unorganized, lack of leadership and absolutely no support, » written by a former employee on March 9, 2011.

« I could not wish this company to my enemy. »

Cons – There is not enough words to explain how terrible this place is. There were people who would last one day, on average employees would leave every 3 months, just enough time to realize how messed-up the company was. No leadership, complete chaos caused by the HQ and the lack of professionalism in the Seattle office. I could not wish this company to my enemy. The joke at the end of every week was how many emails we would get from HR informing us that people were leaving (though usually, [NCSoft executives request] HR send an email 3-4 weeks after the employees had left). The exec. team tries to hide everything. Employees are treated like idiots. No support, no recognition, no raise.

Nintendo of America

Company Overview
Average Rating: 3.3 (« OK »)
89% Approve of COO Reggie Fils-Aime

« Good benefit, good workplace if you don’t want to work hard, » written by a former employee of the company’s Redmond HQ on January 26, 2012.

Cons – No layoffs means no change. Many of the management are there for 20+ year, and proud of it. Many of them joined Nintendo fresh out of college, or in some cases, high school. They do not know how the world outside Nintendo works. They do not know managers in the other successful companies are highly educated and competitive.

« Because the old timers won’t leave, there’s no room for young talented people to move up. »

Because the old timers won’t leave, there’s no room for young talented people to move up. Many smart young people left. Those who get promotions are lazy workers who spend 50% of his day sucking up to management, lying about his achievements. Very disappointing for honest, hardworking, capable people.

Advice to Senior Management – The review in ONLY top down. No manager gets comments from subordinates. No use to complain to manager above, as they all protect themselves, knowing the limitation of their competencies. They really need 360 degree review process.

« NCL knows best, » written by a current employee on May 23, 2011.

Cons – Extremely hierarchical. Decisions are made in Japan and NOA employees are expected to execute. Initiative is not encouraged.

« Fun place, too much micro-managing, » written by a former employee on January 20, 2011

Cons – Parent headquarters micro-manages most marketing tactics. Spend most of your time explaining and justifying actions, instead of being innovative and agressive [sic] in the competitive video game industry. No work/life balance. Headquarters want to be cooperative but has difficulty trusting and allowing US subsidiary to be proactive.

Advice to Senior Management – Let the US subsidiary do their work and market in the style appropriate to our consumers. Move beyond finger pointing and finding scapegoats to making the best video games possible.

PopCap

Company Overview
Average Rating: 3.3 (« OK »)

« Cute art on the walls, low pay, lots of work, incompetent managers, » written by a current employee at PopCap’s Seattle HQ on February 13, 2012.

Cons – Lots of nepotism, incompetent managers, and low pay for working employees. Credit for work done is often given to the wrong people based on their connections to upper management, not based on who got things done. So-called « profit sharing » is really « arbitrary forecast beating. » The more profitable the company gets, the smaller the profit sharing has been for employees. The company is at a stage where lots of middle managers with no relevant skills are being hired. It is becoming very top heavy. There is little incentive to work at PopCap after it was sold to Electronic Arts, as the pay is as low as before, the « profit sharing » is very low to non-existent, there are no more stock options, and there is a mad dash to earn the founders their over-ambitious EA earnout targets, which means burn-out work loads over the next three years.

Riot Games

Company Overview
Average Rating: 4.4 (« Very Satisfied »)
100% Approve of CEO Brandon Beck

« Warning signs. What is good could quickly turn bad, » written by a current employee three weeks ago.

Cons – Trying to work with other departments can feel like navigating a thousand disconnected islands. Gaps between departments create issues. The company has grown so fast that this is only getting worse as time goes on.

Talent often come hand in hand with « arrogant » and « egotistical » – The Riot culture has done nothing to help this. Interaction can sometimes feel uncomfortable and occasionally borders on hostile. Employees that push aggressively on their projects do seem to get more done and other employees who notice that either become more aggressive or become somewhat jaded.

Some employees/management demonstrate very little consideration for other employees’ workload and time. Politics and favoritism here reminds me of college.

Emails are handled horribly. If you come from any corporation or company that makes use of office email systems you will immediately see that the use of email at Riot is a disaster zone.

Long term planning seems practically non-existent in a lot of areas. You’ll see it « presented » on flashy powerpoints from time to time with no real context or detail. Where it does exist lacks the concrete detail and organization needed to actually execute successfully.

Riot claims to be very transparent to their employees but you will quickly learn that this is only half-true.

Rockstar Games

Company Overview
Average Rating: 3.3 (« OK »)

« Organized chaos, » written by a former employee on July 9, 2011.

Cons – * There is a feeling of « perpetual crunch ». Lots and lots of milestones with fancy names. Each one is treated like it’s the most important milestone ever. Except it’s not, and when one is over, it’s on to the next one that is coming up in a month’s time.

* Very muddy vision. The higher ups probably know what they want, but it is communicated very poorly to the staff.

* Management works late, and think that others follow their schedule too. No, we don’t. People have lives. Don’t dump work on us an hour before the end-of-day.

* Chaotic production pipeline. Changes are often made on things that you thought were already done, resulting in old work being scrapped. This can be very demoralizing.

* Rockstar likes to focus on one game at a time. That means if you’re working on a project that’s not coming out soon, it is left to meander aimlessly for 2 to 3 years. When whatever other focus game is released, attention will finally be brought to your project.

* Work environment can sometimes be too casual. You can disappear for a 1 hour smoke break and no one would care. Very rarely do people get called for it, and bad habits are left to grow worse.

* New York controls everything. If they want something changed, you have to do it. Decisions made by local management will get overruled. Something that was approved by your boss 6 months ago will all of a sudden have to be redone because of New York.

* Multiple bosses on one project. Too many cooks in the kitchen with clashing opinions, resulting in work having be redone over and over again.

* The game engine is buggy, and lots of things can and do go wrong. When they do, it can tack on 2 or 3 extra hours to your workday.

Advice to Senior Management – * Invest in a pre-production period. Hammer out everything you want. This will prevent changes having to be made right in the middle of production, and cut your 7 year production periods by at least half.

* Develop a real-time game editor. The way game levels are being created right now is simply too time consuming.

* Encourage a good work-life balance. Set realistic schedules for workers and follow them.

* Stand up to New York when they make inane decisions. They are not always right.

* Recruit senior staff. Stop relying on junior hires just because they’re cheaper. Some of the departments are under-performing because of lack of experience amongst the workers.

« Work for RockStar to feel like a looser [sic], » written by a former employee of Rockstar’s NYC HQ on December 27, 2008.

Cons – * This place is a real drag on your health, confidence and personal life.

* You can like it for being a real challenge but be prepared to hate what you love doing.

* Half of the people don’t know what they are doing, which makes it difficult to work and express yourself as a real professional.

* Your chat logs are being scanned and read by live personnel and your managers in real time. Security cameras are all over and management is known to abuse such resources.

* Full-time employees get run down and pressured to work 50-80 hours on the weekly basis. People start to smoke, get fat and start loosing [sic] hair 2 months into the job. The place is really stressful.

Sony Computer Entertainment America

Company Overview
Average Rating: 2.8 (« OK »)
66% approve of CEO Jack Tretton

« Frat house teeming with incompetence, » written by a former marketing staff at SCEA’s Foster City HQ on March 25, 2012.

Cons – The main problem is not technical, in my opinion, but rather operational. There is no structure at all to the organization, causing tension and a lot of unnecessary runaround which lessens the company’s ability to innovate and do things quickly.

There is no formalized assessment process (no standardized yearly or quarterly review), the outcome being that high achievers leave because of lack of acknowledgement and progress. Worse, the slackers stay, creating a culture that accepts underperformance, laziness and schmoozing to get ahead. People complain about no/few raises, but truthfully, if a comprehensive assessment system was implemented, many of these people would probably be on performance improvement plans. Teams are totally complacent, people do their work mindlessly as they have always done in the past and yet find it acceptable to whine and moan that they aren’t being rewarded.

« There is the mindset that things are always changing at the last minute. »

The organization is very top down, with senior leadership relying on old ways of doing things because that is what is expected at the top. There is an over-reliance on customer research in decision-making. But if you dig deeper, you realize it’s not because having research will lead to positive outcomes (b/c clearly they have not) but because research backs up recommendations, and is therefore primarily meant to save one’s ass. You can’t blame somebody for a misstep when research said that it should have worked out, right? Innovation is typically not backwards or sideways looking. It’s forwarding looking. Research is never going to help you out with that.

Finally, there never seems to be a master plan— or at the very least, it is not widely shared with the entire team. People operate in a bubble which leads to complacency and idlemindedness. You can’t get excited to be part of a solution if nobody seems to know what that is. There is the mindset that things are always changing at the last minute and so master plans are never followed. But it would seem like if you never had a master plan in the first place, you will never know how close or how far you came from hitting your target. You just ended up where you ended up.

« Old company, old practices, old mindset— obsolescence imminent, » written by a current employee at SCEA’s Foster City HQ on November 03, 2011.

Cons – Palpable friction between departments, lots of talking about teams/people behind their back, employees seem openly dissatisfied— every meeting seems to end with somebody complaining about someone or something— just a generally very sad and depressing working environment

« Worst job experience ever, » written by a former employee at SCEA’s Foster City HQ on January 17, 2011.

Cons – -Senior management that is not only incompetent, but insane. They seem to pick their sr mgt based on: nepotism, BS skills, or whoever can manage to wait it out there…..15+ years. Imagine that!

-No real career advancement path.

-Complete lack of communication from Japan about company changes, product development…their employees find out from the media.

« Independent place that lacks direction and vision, » written by a current employee at SCEA’s Foster City HQ on June 28, 2010.

Cons – The company feels like it lacks direction. A great deal of bureaucracy strangles innovation. Company feels like it’s loosing it’s competitive edge in the age of online gaming. HR is a nightmare. No solid plan for advancement within the company. Company doesn’t mentor. HR has no strategy in place to retain top talent. Pay is low. Talent is mediocre. Japanese style hierarchy and decision making structure is out of place in Silicon Valley. The company « events » have become an embarrassing joke (karaoke in the parking lot anyone?).

Advice to Senior Management – Please get a competent consulting group in here to look at management practices! Be more open with employees. Hire talent with solid backgrounds and some real management experience. Stop hiring internally from the Test department! This isn’t the 90’s! Fire half of the marketing staff.

Sony Online Entertainment

Company Overview
Average Rating: 2.5 (« OK »)
19% approve of President John Smedley

« Management is an antiquated old-boys club out of touch with current game development, » written by a former employee at SOE’s Austin studio on October 18, 2011.

Cons – Executive management is the same crusty old team that has been there since Sony bought the company. They are out of touch with current development techniques and business models. They purposefully mislead their teams about ship dates and demand crunch for, literally, years at a time to ship product. It is not a financially healthy part of Sony and suffers from the fear and reactionary behavior that come from that fact.

« Do not work for Sony Online Entertainment, » written by a current employee at SOE on May 12, 2011.

Products are uninspired, tinkered with by the CEO endlessly based on the games his kids decide to play that day, and late to market, not because they are spending time getting things right. They waste time making basic software development mistakes that you can read about in books from 30 years ago

Square-Enix

Company Overview
Average Rating: 3.1 (« OK »)

« I wish someone had posted this before, » written by a former employee of Square Enix’s North America HQ in El Segundo, CA on March 21, 2012.

Cons – Politics to the 10th degree. You will be underpaid. You will be asked to work very long hours (sometimes meetings will be held in the middle of the night due to Japan staff. You will not see your significant other or children very much (except to put them to sleep). Your feedback is not welcome as Japan and EU do what they want. NA is a distribution arm and that’s it. Simply put this is not a fun place to work at all. Staff has been seen crying at their desks, treated very poorly (yelled at), etc. Avoid….

THQ

Company Overview
Average Rating: 2.9 (« OK »)
21% approve of CEO Brian Farrell

« Could have been a lot better, » written by a former employee at THQ Agora Hills HQ on November 17, 2011.

Cons – Senior mgmt still runs the place like a mom and pop operation; which works in some instances, but has a negative impact on the growth of the company. Rules apply to some, but not to all. Rush to complete video games without really looking at the quality of the end product; ruined many potential franchises (Saints Row, UFC, Destroy All Humans). Rush to hire Senior Management , who only remain with the company for a year or two…HR does not look at the big picture and the best to hire; just to get the position filled. Tremendous turnover (25%).

« Make yourself a favour and chose to work for another company. Fun people – Bad management, » written by a current employee on January 15, 2012.

Cons – – Organization is non-existent. Everything is made out of a quick thought.

– Overall bad management.

– Leadership needs to lead.

– Tons of unnecessary overtime.

– Way of thinking is old and surpassed by other companies.

– Overall, it feels that management has no confidence in their employees.

– Suggestions are impossible. You do what you are told. Management feels insulted if you ever come up with a suggestion and will give you no real reason or argument to its thinking when you make more sense than them.

– Bad communication from leads and upper management. You are often left in the dark in many situations.

Timegate

Company Overview
Average Rating: 1.9 (« Dissatisfied »)

« One of my worst professional experiences…EVER, » written by a former UI designer on September 26, 2011.

« They of course don’t understand your work or why it takes as long as it does. »

There are a select few who’ve been with the company since its inception, and just about all of them were hired right out of school. Most everyone else is a recent school or high school graduate with less than a year of tenure there…or anywhere. Yes, for a great deal of employees, Timegate is not only their first game job, but their first job period. What does this amount to? Kids who are weird, awkward or otherwise socially inept trying to work professionally. It doesn’t work.

A lot of these kids come in as game testers. Anyone in the industry knows that the career path for game tester is to be Producer. At Timegate they can get there after less than a year. So now you’ve got these same awkward individuals in a type of project management role where they’re expected to oversee the work of senior developers and artists. They of course don’t understand your work or why it takes as long as it does. So the most used option for them is to stand over your shoulder while you work.

Turnover is sky high. I was there for less than a half a year and saw at minimum, 20 – 30 people come and go. That is not an exaggeration. I learned that my position had been vacated 4 times within the previous 12 months. I would soon understand why.

[…]

Advice to Senior Management – […] Your company president, the individual who manages the healthcare company above you, makes most if not all of the final creative and design decisions. He is not a gamer. He does not work with the development or art teams. He probably can’t draw stick figures or even tell you what UnrealScript is. Why does he have so much power of the design and creative direction? Don’t you have Designers and Art Directors for that?

« Nothing nice to say, » written by a current employee on August 9, 2010.

* Asinine minutiae: I’ve actually been yelled at for using a ‘/’ instead of a ‘-‘ when typing a date out. Our corporate parent is some tight-assed healthcare company which burns through employees faster than we do, so we get a lot of our straight-laced nonsense from them.

[…]

* Morale is low and they try to buy us off with token ’employee of the month’ programs where people get (and I wish I was kidding) nerf guns as prizes

* The company owners have a love affair with Blizzard’s website and copy it whenever possible. Just open the new TimeGate site and Blizzard’s home site in facing windows and see.

Advice to Senior Management – The single biggest piece of advice I can give to upper management is this: Take the power away from the brothers who run TimeGate and its parent company, Healix. They have no idea what makes a good game and they routinely run roughshod over anyone who speaks out and I’ve even heard they told the creative director ‘Don’t forget who signs your paychecks.’ when he objected one of their particularly asinine ‘requests.’ (Design mandates, in other words.)

Ubisoft

Company Overview
Average Rating: 3.3 (« OK »)
76% approve of CEO Yves Guillemot

« Low pay, bad management decisions, lazy workers, » written by a former Ubisoft employee on March 30, 2012.

– When I joined, there were three levels between me and the VP of the department. When I left, there were six levels (three new ones were created).

« An eye opener, » written by a former Ubisoft employee on May 30, 2011.

* Management is a nightmare. Everything is controlled by « Editorial, » a review group in Paris. Team management is free to make all day-to-day decisions but do it with the knowledge that anything can be (and often is) overruled by Editorial. All major decisions are made by Editorial. Atmosphere of fear and frustration.

* The most screwed-up projects I’ve ever seen have been at Ubisoft.

« To go from my desk to the bathroom and back, I had to go through four security doors, using my keycard to unlock each. »

* Paranoia reigns. Not just in the office politics sense and the « project is controlled 5,000 miles away » sense but there are security cameras everywhere (hallways, break rooms, etc.) and multiple security doors to pass through everywhere. To go from my desk to the bathroom and back, I had to go through four security doors, using my keycard to unlock each; to go the the break room and back, it was six security doors. Insane.

« A collection of micro-cultures, » written by a current employee on June 22, 2010.

Cons – No consistency in the culture. Some departments can be overly strict and very structured, others can be very flat with no career plan definition at all. No matter what growth is limited as most recognition and job advancement goes through the Paris office. A superstar anywhere else will face a « wine glass » ceiling. You have to speak french fluently to be seen as influential. Also, the company isn’t shy in firing people.

Valve

Company Overview
Average Rating: 5.0 (« Very Satisfied »)

« possibly the best game company to work for, » written by a current Valve employee. August 18, 2008.

Pros – good quality of life, and being surrounded by creative people. there are many reasons to work at valve. the standards are pretty high, but they push you and really make you strive for the newest, best thing. there is no formal management structure, and responsibility is given on a competence level or if one asks for it. there is lots of room to try new things, so you feel like you are learning all the time. i have been at valve for many years and found it to be extremely rewarding, both in a business sense and personal one.

Cons – very competitive internally (high standards).

Advice to Senior Management – more insight into what’s happening at the company, future plans.

[Editor’s note: This was the most negative Valve review Superannuation was able to find.]

Volition

Company Overview
: Average Rating: 1.3 (« Very Dissatisfied »)

« Good potential company being driven into the ground by poor management and terrible publisher decisions, » written by a former Volition employee three weeks ago.

Cons – – Game design decided by publisher and board of directors. Employees have little creative input and are more of production line workers trying to make a game that is dictated to us.

– Employees leaving to join other companies by the day. When I started in 2010, there was 240 employees. Before leaving in 2012 (2 years later) the company was down to 140 employees, working on the SAME amount of projects. Most people left of their own free will due to the bad workplace.

– Terrible hiring practices, and very poor training/preparation for new employees. (« Oh you start today? We don’t have an office for you, nor a computer. Just watch them for now! »)

– Most asset creation done by outsourcers.

– Lots of backwards company policies. Poor decision making by management.

– Projects being canceled after tons of investment.

– Management and Directors act like babysitters rather than leaders, while also receiving all the glory. (and the money) Very poor rewards for associate and mid level employees, as well as dreadfully slow (if any) promotion rates.

– Studio is severely understaffed, especially after losing 100 people in two years. Expect to crunch full-time.

– Have been personally lied to and used by management.

– Dull « homely » town. Not much to do.

Advice to Senior Management – Take the game making control back into your hands and away from THQ. Hire employees so you actually have respectable teams. For example, a three man audio team for two AAA titles is a joke. Stop spending extravagant amounts of money on food, parties, social events, and put that towards hiring the manpower you need to make AAA games. Reward your employees, and never ever lie to and mistreat the ones that you already have. Company is definitely on the way out the door. Not the place it used to be, and as the turnover numbers reveal, not a place anyone wants to work.

Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment

Company Overview

« Think Twice. Awesome Brands, Not So Awesome Culture and Work Environment, » written by a former employee at Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment’s Burbank HQ on May 29, 2012.

« Remember 1998? That’s the year your work computer, printer and software were all created. »

– Remember 1998? That’s the year your work computer, printer and software were all created. For being a company at the Warner Bros. lot the technology is pathetic. There was a movement for everyone in marketing to get the latest version of Office that took months to approve. I’m not kidding. Burning builds and watermarking builds – a MUST at any games company – take ages, there is no standard build replication process, which causes crazy delays, stress and politics.

– Remember 1960? That’s what you will feel like on your first day. On my first day my computer, email and phone were not set up. It will be you and a desk. I was told that only certain people get business cards (stationery caste system? Sweet.) You also get the sense that you shouldn’t ask for things… like working computers and software and business cards… like « how dare you, just be happy you are at WBIE. » Your supervisor may walk you around to introduce you to folks, maybe not.

-As mentioned prior, some teams are toxic. 4 people out of the 7 person PR team quit within a six month span due to horrible leadership of that team. Word to the wise; ask around before joining WBIE PR.

Zynga

Company Overview
Average Rating: 3.1 (« OK »)
61% approve of CEO Mark Pincus

« Possitive [sic], » written by a former Zynga employee on June 29, 2012.

Cons – Very long hours and very stressful work. More so then any other game company I worked for. No ownership of work. You work as if on an assembly line. Working on feature after feature with no end in sight. Features are designed by Project Managers that have no clue what they’re doing.

Advice to Senior Management – Management has no idea why Zynga is making the money it does. Focus on games for women. Most of your players are female. Pay attention to your community managers. They are in touch with the players and know what makes a game successful. Reduce the number of Project Managers. They detract from productivity, by asking for features that do not contribute to the success of a game. Do not get into on-line gambling. You’re going to lose employees.

« Know what you’re getting into, » written by a former Zynga employee on May 3, 2012.

– Due to its extreme chaos, working 12 hour days is going to happen. A LOT. And for what will, at times, feel like no reason.

– Seriously poor upper and middle management. One’s mileage may vary, but for the most part if you have to work super late, something went wrong with scheduling. And most scheduling hiccups will occur if someone in the executive staff decides to suddenly « pivot » on something they’ve already committed to, and you have to scramble. The company uses it’s perks (food, particularly) to smooth over sloppy scheduling, but that gets old after a while. Management has no interest in your personal well-being, and figures parties, free booze and food should make it all better.

« This company makes clones of themselves. »

– Creative process is sorely lacking. Lots of talk about doing fresh and new ideas, but ultimately the proof is in the pudding: this company makes clones of themselves, and of other games. This makes the lack of pipeline even more frustrating, since the company basically makes the same games over and over again (when they’re not buying other company’s games, that is). One would think that efficiency would allow the company to create more content more quickly, but sadly there’s no real interest in that. They just throw more people at the job.

– There’s something inherently sad and toxic about the work environment, that’s hard to put your finger on. You can feel it when you walk into the office. People are powering through it, but ultimately the work will feel a bit « soulless. »

« Fun / Flexible / Great Compensation, » written by a current employee at Zynga Seattle on March 16, 2012.

Pincus does NOT have 3 heads – he’s actually pretty nice and a fun guy – though he will rip you a new one of [sic] you are in need of a « course correction » – so what? Have a thick skin, take the feedback, and move on. Oh, and Pincus DOES read and respond to EVER SINGLE email that is sent to him, typically within minutes. It’s scary … I think he may be a cyborg.

« Classic plump and dump startup, » written by a former employee on October 27, 2011.

Cons – Zero processes for game design, engineering, creative, project management.

Worst HR department i have ever witnessed. It was heartbreaking how much employees suffer due inability of this unprofessional group to do their job. HR one focus seems to be giving perks, bonuses and quarterly awards to themselves. When employees complained HR un-friended us in the lower pay grades, so as not to be to conspicuous.

Operations really is a danger to this companies [sic] future growth. inept and callous, obviously more concerned about IPO , being the face of Zynga’s humanitarian efforts and quarterly videos than being a real leader.

All the ex Electronic Arts VPs [at Zynga] are the very same people who ran EA into the ground 5 years ago. Now they have brought their same lack of initiatives to Zynga and it shows.

***There are many, many more entires at Glassdoor. If you work for or run one the aforementioned companies and have a different perspective on how things work, let us know.

 

 

source : http://kotaku.com/5940672/pissed-off-employees-bash-pretty-much-every-major-video-game-company

« Hi Guys. Several months have passed since the release of Heroes 6, and because there are so many questions from you regarding BH which UBI seemingly ignores, I feel it’s time that I give you some information.

I worked for Black Hole during the whole H6 development. For us, it was a dream project as we were real fans of the Heroes series, having played it since the original King’s Bounty on Commodore 64. And I can tell you it was the UBI producers who didn’t keep their deadlines, and that was what led to a total failure of the whole development. Back in 2008, during the contract negotiation process, UBI business decision makers didn’t want to hear about making it into the contract that in case of any UBI delays there would be any penalty for UBI. This was a stupid decision of a business development boss (she said « UBI would never be late with any deliverables »…. HAHAHA). And that led to an awkward situation where the whole development got snowed up… but the UBI producers kept telling Black Hole that « no worries, guys, there would be more time and budget, just do what we say ». It was then that one faction, Academy had been removed from the content list, as well as many other things. And then, at half of the development, Romain suddenly quit, Erwan was removed from the project – he was « elevated » to the position of Might and Magic Brand Director, which meant his direct involvement in the development was over -, and BH was left there with the blame. Just an example, the final story script – which was UBI responsibility – was delivered to BH after 27 months… while originally there was 24 months for the whole development. No comment.

As for BH commitment, BH used up all its 6 months reserves just to be able to finish the project… this was more than 1 million Euros!!! And they (we) did this knowing it would never be payed back, as royalty would only be paid after 2M Heroes sold at full price. We all knew 2M copies would never be sold (neither at full price nor at reduced price), still we wanted to finish the project. During the last 10 months, our full team worked 24/7, without any chance for compensation… and because of this, we didn’t have any resources to find other projects and make sure BH would survive after the release of Heroes 6. In the meantime, our new UBI producers kept telling that « the BH team is not working during the nights and weekends, and is not committed to the project at all… ». I can only say, just ask any of the BH team members of their commitment…

As for the many bugs: Heroes 6 is a gigantic project, with 1.5-2 million lines in the source code. This is bigger than most RPGs. Such a project can only be finished with good quality if there are several years and a huge budget (i.e. Blizzard games), or if there is a strict design lock date after 7-9 months of the start of development… in case of Heroes, the UBI guys were adding new ideas and were changing existing features during the whole development, even at the last months, so it was simply impossible to make a stable game for release. Just see what they are now doing with patch 1.3 (BH is not involved in that at all btw.). They cannot release a simple patch with a few smaller fixes in time, they are already in a 2-3 weeks delay. This is because the code is extremely complex, and UBI does not have the team to overview it and make it work in time, even if the Limbic guys are really great (and no, they are not involved in the Heroes development from the project start, they joined like 20 months later).

Some examples of what BH added to the game at their own cost, just to make the game better:
– Town screen (we hate the current version, but it is still better then the « let’s make a screen shot from the adventure map 3D town and use it as a town screen » that UBI wanted – we could have made a much better one, but didn’t have money and time).
– Additional ingame cutscenes (I know cutscenes are not great, but again, we received the story after 27 months… we only had a couple months to make the cutscenes from scratch, and a very limited budget – and I think that the overall visual quality of the game proves to anyone that we could have made really great cutscenes if we had had the time and budget).
– 300 unique Combat Maps (there were 20 in the contract)
– 3D animated Main Menu (UBI wanted a simple still image)
– Additional NPCs
– Campaign Overview Map (Campaign Window)
– and many more……..

And what were the UBI decisions:
– Less resources
– No fullscreen town screens
– Only five factions (as a consequence of the continuous delays of UBI deliverables)
– Creature pool
– and many more such « great » changes………


This project cost Black Hole its existence… while UBI is making profit on Heroes 6.

And just some more thoughts: UBI EMEA were working with four 3rd party developers during the Heroes development:
– Capibara – They made the really good (and financially successful) Clash of Heroes. The are not working with UBI anymore.
– Eugene Systems – They made R.U.S.E. They are not working with UBI anymore.
– Black Hole – They made Heroes 6. They are not working with UBI anymore.
– Techland – They made a 47% game for UBI (Call of Juarez: The Cartel –http://www.metacritic.com/game/pc/ca…rez-the-cartel) – They are still working with UBI EMEA on a big project.

We heard the UBI guys blame those developers (and Nival) many times… I guess BH was blamed the same way to those developers.

It is always the developer who is responsible…

Just some food for thought…. Thanks guys for reading. »

source : http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/forums/showthread.php?4267-Heroes-6-dev-goes-bankrupt-blames-Ubisoft