ArenaNet Reviews

Updated August 26, 2014
Updated August 26, 2014
53 Reviews
4.0
53 Reviews
Rating Trends

Recommend to a friend
Approve of CEO
ArenaNet Co-Founder & President Mike O'Brien
Mike O'Brien
39 Ratings

Review Highlights

Pros
  • Flexible work hours and understanding about work/life balance (in 14 reviews)

  • Very good work hours, for the artists at least (in 8 reviews)


Cons
  • Unfortunate "sink or swim" approach can overwhelm new folks (in 6 reviews)

  • Most of the upper management seems disconnected from their employees and the customers (in 10 reviews)

More Highlights

Employee Reviews

Sort: Popular Rating Date
  1.  

    Good to the extent of Awesome

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Software Engineer in Seattle, WA
    Former Employee - Software Engineer in Seattle, WA

    I worked at ArenaNet as a contractor (less than an year)

    Pros

    Nice Work Environment, and the services are good too

    Cons

    None at all, that i found in the company

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Awesome Job People, Terrific job you are doing there.

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  2.  

    Great environment to learn and grow

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Bellevue, WA
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Bellevue, WA

    I worked at ArenaNet full-time (more than an year)

    Pros

    The people are what make ArenaNet great. It is difficult to find a studio that is willing to work on something and polish it until they get it right. The studio never panics. ArenaNet usually views mistakes as lessons and will make iterative adjustments rather than radical shifts, this keeps everything on generally level ground. As has been mentioned many times the work-life balance can be very good at ArenaNet and while there is the occasional pressure for longer hours there is a consistent push to try and find root cause for why it was necessary and prevent it from happening in the future.

    Cons

    The weather. While completely outside of the control of ArenaNet it is still notable and should be considered carefully if you're the type of person who needs to see the sun on a regular basis. There are a number of people who are new to their leadership positions and it takes time to learn the management side. The management skills are inconsistent across the studio which can lead to differences in how teams and departments are led and how communication and priorities reach throughout the studio.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    The direction and vision that is eventually worked out after discussion and iteration is very good. However, the communication of that direction and vision doesn't always make it clearly to the people doing the work. More proactivity in making sure the message is reaching everyone in the studio and clarity in how each person can contribute to the whole would make much of the uncertainty fade into the background. The methods of reaching a decision are quite often based in objective data and solid reasoning but often only the 'what' makes it to the team, not always the 'why'.

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  3.  

    I've never worked with a smarter group of people

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Lead Programmer in Bellevue, WA
    Current Employee - Lead Programmer in Bellevue, WA

    I have been working at ArenaNet full-time (more than 5 years)

    Pros

    - I can't speak for other departments, but programming pay is competitive with other industries and the profit sharing plan gives a great incentive to produce results.
    - Very flat hierarchy, making it super easy to discuss concerns with Directors or even the head of the company. They're all friendly and interested in feedback.
    - Amazing coworkers who produce insane things on the regular. I've never felt dumber working somewhere and been so happy about it.
    - Room to grow in my career is limited to some degree, but has still been very useful and taught me so much.
    - It went away for a bit but the internal improvement program is back and providing some really interesting classes.
    - I've never been given so much freedom to solve problems however I see fit. It's rewarding and stressful at the same time, but being able to own those decisions is huge.
    - Work-life balance is fantastic 95% of the time. The other 5% is less overall time than at any previous tech job and I enjoy the work more so I don't mind it. Since it's rare crunching with a team is actually kind of a fun experience.
    - Great medical/dental benefits
    - PROFIT SHARING

    Cons

    - Management priorities can shift in opaque ways sometimes. I've brought this up as an issue and it's improved some, but not as much as I'd like.
    - Hiring is spotty, had a long stretch w/ no stable recruitment team and very few new people coming in. Better now, but could be more I think.
    - Parking sucks & is expensive for what you get, especially after the buildings started to fill up.
    - Free snacks are too much salty/sweet, not enough fresh fruit or other healthier choices.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Making the priority process more transparent would go a long way towards chilling people out. Right now they seem to just appear and do all sorts of weird things to existing plans.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
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  5. 2 people found this helpful  

    Like a family, Arenanet is sometimes dysfunctional, but overall a great place to put down roots in the industry.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Content Designer in Bellevue, WA
    Current Employee - Content Designer in Bellevue, WA

    I have been working at ArenaNet full-time (more than 10 years)

    Pros

    The talented people who work at Arenanet, and the camaraderie that results from such clustering of "great minds" is one of the single greatest perks of working at Arenanet. There's no shortage of great ideas within these walls, and plenty of opportunities to have your voice heard, and there's passion from everyone to put out great content, and to make Arenanet the standard bearer, not just in our genre, but in our industry. Tremendous degree of creative expression for team members, even those who are new hires. Arenanet does reward its people generously, if you have patience, in terms of compensation and personal career development, but that may require years of finding one's niche at the studio and investing in your career here so if you're looking for a quick boost, this is probably not the company for you. Arenanet is an open and welcoming studio, in terms of accepting diversity and displaying flexibility in one's lifestyle. Overall, work/life balance for most employees is outstanding compared with other companies in the industry, and studio management has always been dedicated to putting family first. Salary wise, Arenanet seems to pay somewhat below industry "standard" at a base level, but the profit sharing plan and other benefits more than make up for any discrepancy. For full timers, and especially those with a family, you cannot beat the health insurance coverage which the company pays for (full for employee/partial for family members). Virtually unlimited soda and snacks in a large "cafeteria" style space, and ability to order lunch "in" from neighboring restaurants is great and convenient, as are the frequent food trucks.

    Cons

    Studio leadership can suffer from not having their pulse on what's happening in the trenches, and have been known to swoop in at the eleventh hour to change direction on the development teams, which not only slows production but damages morale. One of the more prominent and ongoing long-term issues is the "flat" structure of the studio. While it serves some benefits (less management overhead), in the big picture view, it comes at the serious cost of not providing employees with clear career advancement. There's opportunities, but it's very much left to the employee to "chart their own course", and HR and department leads have not always done a fantastic job of helping the process. Certain departments/teams have been ridden particularly hard over the past couple of years (Living World), and been given sometimes contradictory goals and directives (make this more epic, but do less), resulting in overtime as the teams struggle to deliver both quantity and quality. There are tools and process issues for a number of departments, which the studio is seemingly reluctant to put our full weight in resources and capital behind solving. Parking issues (either you pay heavy fees for parking, or park in a neighboring facility and risk being towed) are annoying. The company sometimes spends money unwisely or prioritizes the wrong things (treats for the employees when teams are told they can't have another software license because of budgeting).

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Really the best advice I could give to upper management is to read the "Cons" sections of the reviews on here with an open mind and a willingness to take that criticism at face value. While it's true that some of the comments are exaggerated and hyperbolic, there's also truth here, and we can only get better as a company if we read those comments and come up with a plan to address some of them. If there's one thing I've learned in my long tenure at Arenanet, it's that everyone who works here is filled with a passion not just to make great games, but to make Arenanet a great place to work. Many of the cons you will read in my review, and that of my colleagues are things that lots of studios struggle with, so this is not about "bashing Arenanet". But I think we have room to aspire to rise above some of the common handicaps that have plagued the industry and to do that, it can't hurt to work on addressing the most common complaints of our personnel.

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  6.  

    Evolution of a AAA studio

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Game Designer in Bellevue, WA
    Current Employee - Game Designer in Bellevue, WA

    I have been working at ArenaNet full-time (more than an year)

    Pros

    There has been a lot of changes at ArenaNet over the past year or so, some of them viewed as questionable (like moving QA testing offsite) and some of them seen as exciting and groundbreaking (NDA prohibits me from sharing), but the company is making the necessary changes to continue to be able to be the best gaming studio to work for. GW2 was launched almost 2 years ago and moving from development stage into a live-world stage makes it necessary make changes in the way we work. We work more effectively today than the day I started, recruiting is bringing in all-star candidates for open roles and mediocrity is no longer accepted. This may not sit well with some of the old guard, but its a new world...The Living World.

    Cons

    With everything going on in the game and in the way in which we work, a better communication strategy is needed for everyone to know what is coming down the pike and how things will impact each person and their role/expectation. You shouldn't have to be in the right place at the right time in order to find out certain things.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Communicate more about the 2nd tier stuff. The primary priorities are clear, but the strategy in how we achieve those priorities is usually kept to the team working on it.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  7. 3 people found this helpful  

    A studio on the cusp of greatness hindered by poor management decisions.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I have been working at ArenaNet full-time (more than 3 years)

    Pros

    * The studio is filled with talented and passionate people everywhere you look.
    * Good benefits if you are full time.
    * Healthy, supportive atmosphere among the employees.
    * Great hours for some departments, especially given the industry norms.
    * Good career opportunities for many departments.
    * When everyone on a team is in sync they can produce amazing results.
    * Some key management figures truly care and it shows in the success their teams have.

    Cons

    * Severe reliance on contract/outsourced positions completely tanks morale across virtually every department.
    * Resources are spread too thin. Nothing seems like a real priority, and many teams cannot meet unrealistic expectations because of it.
    * Most of the upper management seems disconnected from their employees and the customers. There are a few definite exceptions, however.
    * Upper management seems to be unable or unwilling to change, either because they are ignoring reviews like these or not seeing them. Employees certainly aren't telling them these things, because they do not want to risk getting on someone's bad side and losing the political game.
    * Poor compensation for most departments.
    * When problems are presented to HR they seem to ignore them. If these problems are not being ignored it seems they can do nothing about them, which is even more frightening.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    My disapproval of the CEO is not directed toward just the CEO, but the entire management team.
    * The company needs to get its priorities straight and actually focus/commit to them.
    * Reduce the dependence on "temporary" contract labor. Talented people are slipping through your fingers constantly because of it. 90% of the TFT positions have no legitimate reason to not be full-time. This kind of self-induced churn hurts everyone and probably doesn't help the bottom line in the long-term.
    * Actually pass these reviews along to the people who need to see them. Nothing seems to be changing despite dozens of reviews with similar concerns and frustrations.

    The employees (myself included) love this studio, the product, and working together. Invest in them and they will invest even more in you.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  8.  

    Innovative, quality software

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Programmer in Bellevue, WA
    Current Employee - Programmer in Bellevue, WA

    I have been working at ArenaNet full-time (more than 5 years)

    Pros

    The company is always trying to push the limits in an otherwise tired genre, the MMO. The "Living World" releases are one of the few examples of successful episodic content in any genre, let alone MMO.

    Cons

    There are a lot of small teams, and sometimes some of the smaller teams get less attention than the big teams.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Grow into a multiple IP company.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  9. 7 people found this helpful  

    Amazingly talented, passionate people; failing company culture and incompetent management.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I worked at ArenaNet

    Pros

    - The majority of people are very talented, dedicated, and passionate about their work as developers and fans of the game.
    - Work hours are flexible and there are daily catered lunch options you can order.
    - There are lots of fluff benefits (free snacks, drinks, open game room).

    Cons

    I'll start off by saying that the company has gone downhill alarmingly fast in the past year, and in addition to the points below, I'd agree with everything else other glassdoor reviews have highlighted about the current cons of working here.
    - Compensation: ArenaNet has always paid below the industry standard for most, if not all, of its positions, but this didn't matter as much in the past for many people because there was an amazing company culture to make up for it where you felt that your contributions mattered and that there were opportunities to advance. This is no longer the case, and salaries have not only lagged behind, but opportunities to advance have also been greatly reduced.
    - Upper Management is poor: Some directors and design leads pay more attention to graphs and data then what people both in and outside of the studio are saying, and this often ends up with projects either being poorly prioritized, scoped beyond what a team can handle, or just driven in the wrong direction. The majority of the people driving the studio are severely out of touch with/don't care about the people in the trenches and the players.
    - HR doesn't care: After GW2 launch, the company started bleeding talent, but there was no visible effort to fix this problem. Instead of hiring (very qualified TFTs) internally for openings, there was an increased focus on bringing in new contractors instead and outsourcing the QA department. This had a substantial effect on company morale as everyone started to question their job security. Multiple people raised concerns about this situation with HR, but no concerns were addressed.
    - HR won't make hard decisions: There are a number of people in the studio who don't perform, but because of their personal connections (as friends, spouses, etc), they aren't fired.
    - Production doesn't schedule teams well: Crunch time lasts far longer than it should, projects end up far out of scope, and deadlines are frequently treated as movable guidelines. Despite the desire to make quality content, a lot of teams are forced to quickly move from project to project, which has resulted in releases far below the quality they deserve.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Get your nose out of your numbers and charts and graphs, and actually look at and listen to the rest of the studio. There are people who are ruining the company and the game because of poor decisions that are focused on what they think will increase profits or decrease costs while ignoring what got ArenaNet to where it is in the first place: its people. If you want any hope of saving your company, then start making ArenaNet a place that feels safe to work again and where there are opportunities to grow. Recognize the limits of the design teams and come up with realistic project goals and deadlines. Become a player again.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  10. 8 people found this helpful  

    Overworked in the trenches, mismanagement at the top

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Content Designer in Bellevue, WA
    Current Employee - Content Designer in Bellevue, WA

    I have been working at ArenaNet full-time (more than 5 years)

    Pros

    * Crazy-talented developers who are passionate and clever about what they do.
    * You'll never not be amazed by the artists and sound team.
    * "Flat" team structure. Got a question? Roll your chair a few feet and ask away.
    * Good collaborative environment. Good ideas and solutions can come from anyone and anywhere.
    * Good insurance package.
    * Profit sharing can give vested staffers a nice bonus.
    * Annual Christmas gift in the form of a nice piece of tech or cash. Last year, all staffers got a PS4.

    Cons

    * Morale is dropping, veterans are departing.
    * Company feels rudderless. Upper management are virtually walling themselves off from the rest of the company.
    * Decision to move to Living World (with content updates every two weeks) was not well thought through and poorly implemented. Long hours, meddling from upper management, poor communication from the top who expected epic Hollywood production without investing in new technology or manpower.
    * Inexperienced producers. Some are struggling but doing great work, others will ride their teams into the ground.
    * Long, brutal crunches that can last months. Burnout is becoming commonplace.
    * Petty senior personnel who will throw people under a bus if they don't get their way.
    * Poor pay, hard to attract and keep talent. Especially programmers.
    * Growing reliance on temp talent. It's a long, hard slog to get converted to full time. Unless you get hired on as full time, expect to be on a temp contract.
    * Willingness by upper management to let designer vacancies stay vacant at a time when talent is sorely needed.
    * Hard to take time off without feeling like you are abandoning the team.
    * Everything seems one step away from crisis mode.
    * Buggy internal tools.
    * Problematic staffers who should have been fired long ago are still employed because of seniority/who they know.
    * No incentive to reward clever thinking or hard work.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Communicate your vision with the rest of the company with clarity and honesty. Cut the dead weight. Stop chasing every damn shiny thing that catches your eye. Ask your teams what they can actually do in a given time frame and don't push them to do more with less. And if you want something flashy and epic, fund it. You have talented people bursting at the seams with ideas. We've reached the limits of what our current tools can do. Give us better cinematic tech. We're looking at everything our sister studio Carbine did with Wildstar and we're wondering "Why can't we present our game like that?" We are chomping at the bit to do great things, but at every turn we are being hobbled by you not filling open seats or funding departments on starvation budgets. Stop. Please.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  11. 4 people found this helpful  

    Work with some of the best people in the industry; work for a leadership team that rewards politics not talent.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Bellevue, WA
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Bellevue, WA

    I worked at ArenaNet full-time (more than 3 years)

    Pros

    Without a doubt, these are some of the best people in the industry. The employee culture is amazing. Everyone is passionate, driven, and yet humble enough to help others reach their goals. Morale is fairly high with a focus on maintaining employee morale through events and catering.

    Cons

    Leadership has faltered in recent years with the introduction of key high level execs. The director level meetings held the moniker of the "Star Chamber". Compensation for most non-programming roles is severely lacking. Several leaders didn't get effective leadership training, with a prime example being how reviews were handled; a struggling employee rarely received coaching until year end, where presented a low-rated review without explanation, long after there was an opportunity to address concerns - and usually done that way to avoid conflict.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Double down on what got the company where it is: all of the people, not just the programmers.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

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