ArenaNet

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ArenaNet Reviews

Updated December 17, 2014
Updated December 17, 2014
57 Reviews
3.9
57 Reviews
Rating Trends

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

Review Highlights

Pros
  • Flexible work hours and understanding about work/life balance (in 15 reviews)

  • Work environment that encourages creativity (in 9 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.  

    An Intern's Review

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

    I have been working at ArenaNet as an intern (less than an year)

    Pros

    The quality of the work and the people were excellent. The employees are all incredibly skilled at what they do, and as an intern/contract worker, you need to be proactive in meeting people and learning from them. If you are a people person you will be able to meet and discover all the amazing people that are quietly working in their respective departments.

    Cons

    I don't know if it is due to the Seattle Freeze, but it does take some people a bit of work to get to know them. You really have to try and put yourself out there to get that camaraderie going -- especially across departments. But as an intern, you should be doing this anyway.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Breaking down some walls and promoting open collaborative work would not be a bad idea.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  2.  

    A Vibrant and Positive Family

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

    I have been working at ArenaNet as a contractor (less than an year)

    Pros

    ArenaNet is a welcoming studio with a focus on providing a great work/life balance. Filled with brilliant and passionate people who in turn inspire you be your best, this company puts a lot of effort and time to promote a positive and collaborative work environment.

    Cons

    Parking is troublesome, but all in all the pros far outweigh the cons.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    The management continues to keep one of the largest and most successful game franchises nimble and balanced enough to develop some of the best creative content in the games industry, this is not a small feat and is deserving of praise. My advice to the management is to keep up the effort and work closely with personnel from all areas of the studio so you can continue to steer the ship true.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  3.  

    Excellent place to work.

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

    I worked at ArenaNet

    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.

    Recommends
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  5. 3 people found this helpful  

    Dedicated people, toxic environment

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

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

    Pros

    The people at ArenaNet have a dedication and drive that is very hard to match in the industry. They seek out the top talent and setup a culture to share knowledge and grow the people around them.

    I have worked with some of the most intelligent and caring people at ArenaNet. Everyone took pride in their work and had no problems helping each other out or staying late to finish their work. A lot of the people at the company have loyalty for those around them. People stay at ArenaNet out a sense of loyalty to the game they helped make and a belief in the product.

    I have worked at big company's like Nintendo, and Microsoft and I can honestly say ArenaNet was one of the first places I felt welcome at. Designers, Programmers, Artists, and QA were all friendly and more than willing to sit down and meet the new guy. There were groups that always got to together for lunches and held nightly gaming sessions. People were always willing to include you into their evening or weekend plans. I have made some good friends at ArenaNet I will hold onto for a long time.

    Cons

    ArenaNet has become a toxic environment where people are worked to their breaking points and then told to keep working. The number one problem that seems to be plaguing ArenaNet is burn out and fatigue. People are often asked to work 10 to 12 hours a day and often to come in over the weekends. Another factor leading to the constant burn out and fatigue is re-scoping of the releases. Teams will work for weeks and months on content for releases only to have everything change a month before the content is launched. This requires the teams to redo a majority of the work for the release while still trying to meet the original deadline.

    ArenaNet has also become a political cesspool. People are being locked into positions not because of a lack of skill or talent, but because they don't suck up to the right people. I have seen employee's with glowing recommendations from their teams get passed over for employee's who can barely do their job because of who they were friends with at the company. The people who actually do the work are too valuable to let them advance, but then the incompetent people make all the business decisions. Management is often ready to scapegoat their people as well. They make all the decisions, but take none of the blame when things go wrong.

    I also wanted to talk about is the talent. Like I mentioned above, the talent at ArenaNet is great and there are a ton of dedicated people. The downside of all of this is: The good people are leaving the company. The politics and overworked environment have caused quite a few people to leave. Almost everyone who helped make Guild Wars and helped launch Guild Wars 2 are gone. You now have a company that trusts analytics and data over people's intuition or that listened to their community. People feel like their complaints are not being heard and many feel frustrated in their lot at the company.

    Also be prepared to make way less money that almost any other studio in the area. This company was competitive for the games industry about a decade ago. Unless you are an Artist or a Programmer expect to be paid about 30% less than any other studio in the area.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    My advice to Management: Start listening to the people underneath you. Let the employees have a stake in what they create again and you might start having a successful product again. Let HR actually defend the employee's from upper management and keep the political bull out of the business.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  6.  

    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
  7. 1 person found this helpful  

    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
  8. 1 person found this helpful  

    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
  9. 3 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
  10.  

    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
  11. 4 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

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