The Best (And Worst) Game Companies To Work For: A Review of Employee Feedback as of 2013

Valve and Riot are the tops, according to their own people, while EA is surprisingly decent

We all have our impressions of how good a video-game company is, but, for most of us, those impressions are formed mostly from personal experience as consumers and from a kind of Internet groupthink. (“Valve is good. EA is bad. Everyone knows that.”)

Here's insight from the people in the trenches, who have an insiders' view of exactly what goes on behind closed doors and can offer some brutally honest assessments of what it's like to work for the giants of video gaming.

What follows is a list of the 46 significant gaming developers and publishers I picked out who have at least five ratings on Glassdoor, sorted by average rating. Glassdoor.com is a fascinating site that allows employees and former employees of virtually any company in existence – gaming or otherwise – to leave ratings and written reviews of their experiences.

Wherever possible, I used the data for the company's North American office, since that's the one most likely to affect readers of this site, and the one you're most likely to work for. Also included are the approval ratings for the company's CEO and the total number of votes cast for him.

Company Rating Number of Company Reviews
CEO App% Number of CEO Reviews
Valve 4.4 5 100 1
Riot 4.3 74 98 62
Harmonix 4.2 12 100 1
Obsidian 4.0 6 100 1
Guerrilla Games 3.8 5 100 4
Mythic 3.8 10   0
Square Enix 3.7 7 71 7
Turbine 3.6 19 100 3
Neversoft 3.6 7 100 2
Wargaming.net 3.6 5   0
BioWare 3.5 44 50 6
ZeniMax 3.5 12 60 5
PopCap 3.5 31 71 17
KingsIsle 3.5 12 100 2
Crystal Dynamics 3.4 5 67 3
Ubisoft 3.4 174 77 111
Blizzard Entertainment 3.4 122 88 96
Cryptic 3.4 9 100 1
Vivendi 3.4 9 100 1
Activision Blizzard 3.3 10 60 5
Electronic Arts 3.3 543 61 38
Rockstar 3.3 13 75 8
Funcom 3.2 21 50 10
Lionhead 3.2 5   0
CCP 3.1 43 67 3
Zynga 3.0 213 38 8
Atari 3.0 8 40 5
Crytek 3.0 27 62 13
Sony PlayStation 3.0 122 67 54
Nintendo of America 3.0 40 89 19
ArenaNet 2.9 13 100 4
Capcom USA 2.8 6 50 2
Konami 2.7 7 0 1
Id 2.7 9 33 6
Sega of America 2.7 14 40 5
Volition 2.7 7 100 2
Namco/Bandai 2.6 16 0 5
Jagex 2.6 34 20 5
Trion 2.6 27 33 9
NCSoft 2.4 47 22 23
SOE 2.4 60 28 46
Red 5 2.3 14 33 6
Perfect World Ent. 2.3 18 50 2
Nexon America 2.3 13 67 3
Red Storm 2.0 5 50 4
5th Cell 1.9 17 0 2

Riot: The Top Employee Rated Company

“Best place in games, maybe all of technology.”

With all that said, I think it's clear that the winner of this little exercise is Riot Games. Though Valve edges the League of Legends maker by 0.1 points, it does so on the strength of just five reviews. Riot manages a 4.3 approval rating (out of 5) on 74 reviews and CEO Brandon Beck has an astonishing 98% approval rating on 62 reviews – the highest of any CEO with more than four votes. Positive reviews include comments like:

“Best place in games, maybe all of technology.”

“Spotless ethics – this company conducts business cleanly and fairly. “

“The company takes ridiculously good care of us, and tries every step of the way to make sure we're engaged culturally, intellectually and socially.“

“Riot is a place where you can really step in and make an impact, regardless of your level.”

5th Cell Media: The Worst Employee Rated Company

At the bottom of the list, with a gruesome 1.9 rating from 17 employees, is 5th Cell Media. The Scribblenauts developer gets especially low marks for its senior management, with comments like:

[They] “lack the skills to provide proper direction and communication”

“The leads are a group of 'yes men' who don't back up their team unless it affects themselves”

[Employees] “never speak up due to your hostile environment.”

EA is... OK?

What about noted gaming industry villain Electronic Arts? With the most reviews of any company on this list (543), they check in at a solid 3.3, slightly above the overall average of 3.14. Work/Life balance is actually one of the better parts of its five-category breakdown – maybe those 85-hour work weeks are a thing of the past.

 

Sure, Some Disclaimers Apply

Now yes, there are several caveats to apply.

Small sample sizes, in many cases, are an obvious issue. Also, disgruntled employees are probably more likely to leave negative feedback than happy ones are to leave positive. On the other hand, it's not impossible to envision a scenario where a company “encourages” its employees to leave positive feedback to boost its ratings.

As previously mentioned, I've only included companies that had more than five ratings, and even then, it took a little doing to try and find the one that I thought would work best, in the cases of companies with multiple offices. While Sony PlayStation and Nintendo are present, there's no Microsoft on the list. That's because "Microsoft," as listed on Glassdoor, covers a whole lot more than the gaming side of the company, and I could find no entry for "Microsoft Game Studios" or "Xbox."

Finally, the earliest comments I could find are from 2008, and a lot can change in a company over five years. While Glassdoor can be a useful tool, it probably shouldn't be taken as the do-all and end-all of company research.

So where does your favorite – or least favorite – company fall on the list? And are you surprised by some of the results?

Featured Correspondent

Jason Winter is a riddle wrapped inside a burrito, smothered in hot sauce. Mmm... burrito...

Published Sep. 20th 2013
  • Bruce_9174
    Yeah, that's about right. I used to work at 5th Cell and there is a reason employees nicknamed it "5th Hell". One of if not THE worst companies I've ever worked for. Surprised by some of the other ones though.
  • Dami_6535
    Microsoft is the worst. I work there and everytime they call me into work its someone from india. They also like to bring in more people than needed so they can shove half the people that commuted out.
  • Hamilton_1841
    That actually sounds pretty accurate based on the places I've worked (one of the high ones) and what my friends at other studios say.
  • Ste Grainer
    Featured Correspondent
    Those are some interesting comparisons. Nice research!

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