Ranking the MMO Devs by Employee Satisfaction
If you're looking to break into the gaming industry, where should you go? We all have our opinions of the “good” and “bad” companies to work for, but that's usually based on nothing more than a vague impression and isolated stories – some of which are flavored by our impressions of the company's games.
Glassdoor is a website that compiles reviews from employees and former employees to create a resource for prospective job hunters to give them an idea of what they can expect from a company. A couple of years ago, I did a piece using this data to rate dozens of game companies, and I figured it was finally time to update my findings for 2015, with an emphasis on companies covered on this site – mostly MMORPGs, but also MOBAs, multiplayer shooters, and other RPGs.
The same caveats apply to this data as it did for the original article: The sample sizes may be small for many of these companies, and while Glassdoor stands behind its ratings, it's not hard to see how companies could manipulate them to achieve more favorable results. I actually contacted Glassdoor with a few questions and got a swift response assuring me that their system is geared the way it is to be fair to both employees and employers. In particular, recent reviews are weighed more heavily in ratings than older ones. Still, take these ratings for what they're worth.
I pulled these ratings over a few days the week of July 6-10. Given how most prominent companies had increased their footprint on Glassdoor, I decided to up the minimum number of reviews from five to 10, with just one notable exception (Hi-Rez Studios).
The companies listed are as granular as I could find them, so as to best represent the RPG branch of the company – for example, “Blizzard Entertainment” instead of “Activision Blizzard” – and I prioritized developers over publishers, especially when the publisher deals in a lot more than RPGs – hence “Bungie” but no “Microsoft” for Destiny. Finally, as they're the companies you're most like to deal with, or seek employment with, I tried to find their North American branches, or at least skimmed over the reviews to see that they came largely from North American employees.
Got all that? OK, here are the ratings!
The unweighted average for the 34 listed companies is 3.30. The weighted average – giving more emphasis to companies with more reviews – is 3.45. So you might consider companies at 3.3 or lower as “below average” and 3.4 or higher as “above average.”
The last time I did this, Riot Games came out clearly on top, despite being edged by Valve, which only had five reviews and a 4.4 rating. You could make a case for Riot still being the top game company, as only Epic Games (Fortnite) and Bungie (Destiny) rate higher, albeit with a fraction of the reviews.
But there's one other company that could lay claim to the title... if it still existed. Former Dark Age of Camelot developer Mythic Entertainment was rated at 4.8 on the strength of 27 reviews, but it shut down in 2014. 15 of those 27 reviews were posted over a two-month span as the company was ceasing operations, so maybe there was a bit of nostalgia-fueled sadness powering those high ratings. Neither Broadsword Games (DAOC's new home) or City State Entertainment (run by Mark Jacobs) have pages on Glassdoor.
On the other side of things, several highly prominent MMO developers and publishers – Nexon, Perfect World, Aeria Games, Daybreak Game Company, Square Enix, CCP Games, ZeniMax Online Studios, Cryptic Studios, Carbine Studios, and NCSoft – make up nine of the bottom 12 companies.
At 2.0, NCSoft is in a class by itself, with reviews titled “If you're REALLY desperate for a job” and “Run away,” though at least its subsidiary, Carbine, is keeping it company down there. Maybe hardcore MMO design is a grind that takes a greater toll than on its developers than we fully realize.
It's easy to see why things would be less than great at places like Carbine or Cryptic, but is the other end of the scale, is anyone as surprised as I am to see Kabam at 4.0? Maybe some of those six-figure salaries make up for the soul-sucking work of creating games like Wartune and Angel Alliance.
While Glassdoor's emphasis on recent reviews make such a comparison a little sketchy, I did attempt to compare companies' ratings in 2013 to their 2015 ratings. Cryptic took the biggest tumble, dropping nearly a full point, from 3.4 to 2.5. The biggest gainer was Red 5 Studios, up from 2.3 to 3.4, which shouldn't be too much of a surprise. Mark Kern was ousted from the company just three months after my article was published, and that came as a welcome relief to many of Red 5's employees – the ones who were left, that is.
Finally, while it's not directly related to this article, in my 2013 piece, I analyzed Electronic Arts, which was “known” to be abusive to employees. It rated right about average, 3.3, back then, and it's up to 3.6 now, with an 85% approval rate for its CEO.
That's all I've got... does anything else stand out to you?