ArenaNet Reviews

Updated July 28, 2015
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ArenaNet Co-Founder & President Mike O'Brien
Mike O'Brien
33 Ratings

Pros
  • Work-life balance is fantastic 95% of the time (in 15 reviews)

  • Work environment that encourages creativity (in 9 reviews)

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

  • Upper management are virtually walling themselves off from the rest of the company (in 10 reviews)

More Pros and Cons

51 Employee Reviews

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  1. Great company, fun atmosphere

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

    I have been working at ArenaNet full-time (Less than a year)

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Pros

    Everyone is really engaged in trying to make the best game possible. Feedback from everyone is accepted and acknowledged. The culture is inviting.

    Cons

    The only con I can think of is the 401k match is a lot lower than other places, both inside and outside the gaming industry.


  2. Great people, bad management

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

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

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    Pros

    ArenaNet is FULL of wonderful, creative, smart individuals who want to do great things. Lots of opportunity for training for future career growth. They have a great internship program, which includes training as well, and a tight, well-organized, and well-managed production team - one of the best in the biz.

    Cons

    With very few exceptions, ArenaNet's directors seem to be the blocker for getting anything done. No decision can be made without going through the CEO (Mike O'Brien), which creates an insurmountable amount of churn, wasted work, and sometimes complete confusion. Even the project that appears to be moving forward smoothly can be derailed at the last minute because the CEO changed his mind. Many of the ArenaNet old-timers (5 years+) refuse to change their ways, which makes progress and real change nearly impossible. There is little-to-no career growth opportunities at ArenaNet and women do not seem to be able to break through the glass ceiling. Even those women who are in director roles are not invited to the exclusive director's lunches that take place every week. The HR team has changed the way review processes work several times in the last few years, leading to confusion as to how you even get a pay raise.

    Advice to Management

    Create goals and objectives, then empower your teams create the plans necessary to achieve them.


  3. Helpful (2)

    Fading glory, uncertain times ahead

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

    I worked at ArenaNet full-time

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    Pros

    Amazing creative talent, and a real sense of pride in the game. Well connected with the community, though at times this lead to quick reactionary changes instead of proactive changes to the game. Overall a very nice office space, and some really talented people. Very supportive of LGBT employees.

    Cons

    Open work environment can be extremely noisy and distracting at times. Bad dynamic with directors that tend to lead to hostile interactions instead of approachable management. Especially with the QA department. Sink or swim environment that has led to a lot of turnover. Bad environment within the programming department, with a standoffish and isolated tools team, a core engine team disconnected from reality, and gameplay programmers often left without support. Fragile and convoluted codebase that makes it difficult to work in at times. Build resources seem highly constrained, leading to some long hours waiting on a build to be queued up and finish. Odd computer setup requiring two at every desk, and frequent failures. IT department seems overloaded and undertrained to support a game team. Many people just bypass them completly. Uncertain leadership, overburdened managers, and poor communication often causes people to shortcut the process, leading to more uncertainty and confusion. Wages are the typical low ones found in the games industry.

    Advice to Management

    Take time to address the problems instead of pushing so much priority on shipping. Be willing to fire bad managers and directors, instead of letting them lead to talent loss. Help the teams work together better, instead of allowing some teams to isolate themselves.


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  5. ArenaNet Company

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

    I have been working at ArenaNet full-time (Less than a year)

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook

    Pros

    Care for Employees Open Environment Want Employees to Succeed Great/Nice People Wonderful Work-Life Balance Always trying to improve with processes or employee engagement Leadership is all on the same page when it comes to beliefs, goals, and atmosphere Fitness center

    Cons

    I took the job because my core beliefs align with their beliefs so I do not have any cons at this time.


  6. Helpful (8)

    Poor Management Hurts Potentially Great Company

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

    I have been working at ArenaNet full-time

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    Pros

    Excellent benefits - paid vacation/days off, insurance is paid for the employee, the usual startup perks (game room, food). Excellent support staff. Overall work/life balance is very good.

    Cons

    Offices are super-cramped and noisy. Staff is divided by what you do rather than departments, which can make getting things done for a project difficult. Managers are overwhelmed and lack training in many departments. The CEO has his hands in too many things.

    Advice to Management

    Look at how other companies work. You're a big company now - it's time to start moving away from the startup mentality. Hire good people and trust them to do their jobs.


  7. Helpful (4)

    Bad place for coders. Big opportunity cost.

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

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

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    Pros

    Art team is good and you get to work on interesting concept stuff Design team is decent, you get to work on fairly interesting stuff as well

    Cons

    Arenanet is risk averse and tries to avoid any technical challenges. This means you will learn nothing important here as a coder. Especially because Mike O'Brien is very hands on with the coding department. They also don't care about your growth as a professional. Not only do they not care about your growth, but they also don't pay much. Basically they try to be a low tech risk-averse company in terms of software engineering. MMO industry as a whole is a subniche of a niche that is gaming. MMOs are addictive and exploit players, sinking enormous amounts of their time without any human message, grinding the levels. While GW is not the worst of MMOs in this respect, it's still a massive time sink of a game and NCsoft parent company is quite comfortable exploiting players with basically borderline porn (Blade and Soul). Generally speaking working in the game industry as a coder is a poor choice of skillset for investment of your time. You only live once and every year counts towards the skillset that you build. Working at arena will not improve your skillset in my opinion.

    Advice to Management

    Pay more. Give people more opportunities for challenges and improvement. Less propaganda and more honest caring about long-term employees life goals. It's not all about minimizing technical risk and producing the game cheaply. People have other options and if you don't challenge them they'll simply leave for more interesting creative technical challenges. Realize that you are privileged to have people to give their life time producing work for you, not the other way around. You have to give back.


  8. Helpful (4)

    Good place to start if you want to work for online game company.

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

    I worked at ArenaNet full-time

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    Pros

    There are not many MMORPG game company out there and ArenaNet is one of the best.Everyone's aiming high quality and and best player experience. If you love Guild Wars or like to work on MMORPG title, this is your place. Especially you never worked for online game before, there are ton of things you will learn.

    Cons

    Since two founders has left the company, original spirits are faded and the company dissolved into completely different one.Talented people keep leaving for the better places. No other portfolio than Guild Wars so it's fate is hang on Guild Wars. Few grumpy seniors with many juniors mostly straight out of college. Cash compensation is low end in the industry.


  9. Helpful (7)

    Bright past, solid creatives, uncertain future

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

    I worked at ArenaNet

    Neutral Outlook
    Neutral Outlook

    Pros

    In my time at ArenaNet, I met a lot of talented and dedicated people: incredible artists, some really devoted designers, talented writers, clever programmers, & some of the best QA staff in the business. If you're really excited about sinking into the lore & mechanics of a world, Tyria (the source for both Guild Wars & GW2) is lush & fascinating, & the majority of the people working there are deeply devoted to that source material. Their interaction with their community is stunningly positive, it stands out as one of the best in the business. I was proud of how ArenaNet was really on the hunt for internal talent. I know many people there who climbed the ranks from QA to art, production, programming, and design. Such a practice is all too rare these days & I applaud them for their efforts to cultivate promising talent from within.

    Cons

    The unfortunate part of working at ArenaNet really came after Guild Wars 2 shipped. The company folded into a lot of smaller teams, but refused to try to establish any kind of hierarchy. This led to a lot of "fake" titles, confusion, and jostling for position. Seniors felt undervalued & unable to advance to a leadership position, intermediates felt confused about how to develop their careers. Only juniors really benefited from an environment that emphasized generalist work. Shifting schedules & trying to adapt management led to weird positions where "coordinators" could be from an department, so suddenly a senior designer might find themselves answering to an animator, or a prop artist to a programmer, and so on. An interesting experiment on one level but mostly bewildering and frustrating. In addition to this, major focus started to be spent on developing the Chinese version of Guild Wars 2. In fact a recent patch, adapted to that system, caused major outcries in the GW2 community in the rest of the world due to it adding mandatory tutorials & mangling story content. It was a concern for me while I was there how a different country was essentially pushing around the design direction for the rest of the world (& I felt weird that all game content had to be approved by the Chinese government before being released). I understand how big of a market it is but it felt like it pushed an entirely separate agenda. If you're not an artist at ArenaNet, it is understood that your department is not the one in charge. I found many art assets were not even open for discussion, let alone debate, even when the community reaction against such was super negative. Don't get me wrong, ArenaNet has some of the best artists there that I've ever worked with, but the upper management has made the decisions of the art leads unimpeachable & very inflexible when it comes to adapting to feedback. This is a major departure from working on GW2 & even with individual artists on post-release content. It's a departmental issue not a cultural one. One thing I found out after the fact of working at ANet is that the salaries are below industry standard by a lot, even to the point when someone I knew outside the company called it a "local joke." Programmers will likely secure a more solid wage because of local competition, as will artists, but seniors of multiple departments will likely be disappointed at their offerings. I have heard since that upper management is trying hard to bring salaries up to industry standard. This is nice to hear but it is definitely something to consider. & although the new expansion is looking interesting it's not clear if ArenaNet will continue to be GW2-ONLY, or if they'll be able to open up development to other projects. The setting and game are cool, but without alternatives to offer, it's a fair bet that talented individuals suffering from thematic burnout will leave.

    Advice to Management

    There is such an unfortunate gap between the high-up decision makers & the actual creative team, it ranged from troubling to maddening. There are passionate people on both sides, but wild design switches in upper management's approach (esp. Mike O' Brien, the CEO) left a lot of people actually doing the work scrambling around. During the development of GW2, O'Brien actually backed off from getting too involved with the development of the game & it really helped the team as a whole focus and get things done. Post-ship, when departments were fragmented, the promotion-focused, monetization-driven attitude of upper management snuck in, & teams that had never had to do serious crunch during main development were squished into tiny schedules that damaged both work quality and quality-of-life. Workers found themselves reporting to "Points of Contact" who served less as leads & more as a sympathetic ear. And those who actually left the company had their exit interview with the office manager instead of an actual member of upper management. Draw it back in. Condense your focus, & actually empower people, create more stable teams and hierarchies. Get rid of those nonsense "principal" and "coordinator" and "POC" roles. Let seniors get attain lead positions & intermediates can both direct their career & help to mentor promising juniors. Make a point that every department is equal & should collaborate, not have policy dictated from one to the rest. & improve how you treat QA, esp. those embedded on your smaller teams. Without their dedicated help, fast-pitch content will go out buggy and slapdash. And make it so people can actually say "no" to Mike O'Brien. Not out of meanness (because he is not a bad man), but because currently there are no systems of checks and balances on him & every system needs that to flourish properly.


  10. Helpful (4)

    Good Fun place to work

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

    I have been working at ArenaNet

    Pros

    Great work environment, everyone is very positive and encouraging. People willingly help each other on projects. The benefits package is decent. Upper management clearly presents its vision and goals. The projects we work on are very interesting.

    Cons

    Organization could be better. People sometimes have trouble adhering to deadlines. Some major projects could be better planned.


  11. Helpful (2)

    Excellent place to work.

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

    I worked at ArenaNet

    Recommends
    Recommends

    Pros

    ArenaNet is a great place to work on a great game. The work environment is fun and casual, and your coworkers are not only skilled, but personable. One of the best jobs I have ever had.

    Cons

    Not much room for promotion, and somewhat low compensation. That said, the pros far outweigh the cons.



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