Big Fish Games

  www.bigfishgames.com
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Big Fish Games Reviews

Updated Jul 21, 2014
All Employees Current Employees Only

3.2 62 reviews

67% Approve of the CEO

Big Fish Games President & CEO Paul Thelen

Paul Thelen

(36 ratings)

56% of employees recommend this company to a friend

Review Highlights

Pros
  • great work life balance, fun to be part of the shifting game industry(in 8 reviews)

  • Friendly employees and causal work environment make it a fun place to work(in 7 reviews)


Cons
  • However, I found that there was a consistent hiring of C-level employees(in 3 reviews)

  • Salaries offered are below industry average for the game industry(in 3 reviews)

62 Employee Reviews
Relevance Date Rating
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    • Culture & Values
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Career Opportunities
    • No Opinion of CEO

    2 people found this helpful  

    A fun place to work... until somebody decides they don't like you.

    Software Engineer (Former Employee)

    ProsOutside of the occasional crunch time late nights, they have a good policy around work-life balance (though things were getting worse toward the end of my tenure).

    Some interesting projects to work on and problems to solve

    If you can manage to stay on your manager's good side, things will be good for you

    Depending on where you sit, its a great view

    You get to work with some talented and fun people

    ConsThe aforementioned talented people typically don't last very long.

    Pay far under the industry average in the area.

    For the average employee, the opportunities for promotion are severely limited. Politically adept or highly favored individuals are promoted rather than those deserving based on merit.

    Which brings me to my next point. My single biggest gripe about the company is how amazingly political and bureaucratic it is; especially considering the size of the company. Middle management has very little oversight and depending on the team you're in, favoritism and double standards are rampant. If you get on your manager's bad side; or if you get on the bad side of somebody they favor more than you, things can get very difficult very quickly.
    For these unfortunate individuals, the work they do and their level of competence and productivity don't matter.

    Verbal status reports (and the occasional written ones) are typically ignored if its not directly affecting a high visibility project. Stand-ups are more of a way for managers to relay information to you than for you to talk about your status or any issues that may have come up with your tasks. Getting issues, both personal and project-related documented (typically via email to a manager) is a necessity. Speaking directly with a coworker regarding a problem will get you in trouble if a dispute arises for any reason.

    Middle managers are not trained adequately. They don't understand how to resolve disputes within the team or coordinate effectively with other teams. They are not trained on alternative leadership styles, such as those found among their team leads, and as such are not receptive toward any management style other than their own. And often, managers resort to a blame game should any problems arise, either interpersonal or project-related.

    Finally, I'm not certain what level the decision was being made from, but job/career-altering announcements are often kept secret from employees. The announcement of the death of the project you're working on or being shuffled to another team is often the first indication a low level employee has that something is wrong.

    Advice to Senior Management1) Bring compensation up to a level that competes with other companies in the area. While true you'll never match Amazon and Microsoft's pay/benefits, you can at the very least match the smaller companies and start-ups in the city.

    2) Get middle managers under control. Give low level employees a clear path to bring up concerns about their immediate supervisors. Crack down on the blatant favoritism shown to certain employees. Train managers on how to deal with destructive politicking within their teams. Make it clear that lying about coworkers to managers is absolutely unacceptable behavior.

    3) Stop treating your employees like disposable chaff. Don't string employees along with promises you have no intention of keeping and make sure your lower level managers are following this same example. Let employees know about changes that may be affecting their jobs, much of it is not so big that its worthy of keeping under absolute secrecy and only serves to demoralize all parties involved.

    4) Get managers under control.

    5) Get managers under control. I cannot emphasize this enough. Other than the issue regarding compensation, nearly every problem I encountered stems from this. Bad managers are given free reign and the people under them have no recourse.

    No, I would not recommend this company to a friend – I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company

    • Culture & Values
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Career Opportunities
    • Disapproves of CEO

    3 people found this helpful  

    Misguided software engineering department. You won't learn anything about good software development here.

    (Former Employee) Seattle, WA

    ProsThe people like having fun -- it's easy to make friends here.
    Interesting technical challenges.

    ConsPoor management in software engineering. They claim to be "agile" but there is nothing agile about the way they work -- it's really "waterfall" style sprinkled with scrum meetings.
    I worked on several projects. We spent hours upon hours planning and re-planning entire projects 6 months into the future. When the schedules inevitably slip, we cut corners and cancelled test automation work, requiring entire teams to run manual regression tests on nights and weekends while last-minute bug fixes trickled in.
    Promotions don't make sense, they're usually based on who makes more noise rather than actual contributions.
    Retrospective meetings were mostly a facade -- managers didn't welcome negative feedback. Suggestions for improving the development process were often discouraged and frowned upon. People got made fun of by managers for thinking unit tests were a good idea.
    Technical debt is rampant, even in services/tools that should be long-lived.
    Good user experience is not prioritized, resulting in bad products that fail in production.
    Individual contributors clearly not valuable as people to management, treated like interchangeable parts.

    Advice to Senior ManagementYou're constantly driving away your best software engineers.
    Your style of software development only works with one-off games, and it will not work with games/services that require longevity (including F2P games). Your management needs to understand how to mitigate tech debt.
    As of this writing, most of your software engineers currently consist of:
    A) Many higher level leads/managers who have tricked you into thinking they know what they're doing. They work hard and believe writing software is difficult and that you often do need to work long hours to get things done. These people are misguided, they aren't willing to improve, and they are holding your company back by not valuing real A-level engineers. They say they do "agile" development, but they don't really understand the values of agile software development.
    B) Scarce awesome software developers. These people come and go quickly. There are a few, but they are either a) silent about their observations and just want a paycheck (holding back their true power), or b) searching for a job elsewhere because they're not happy, or c) happen to be on a team that is led by a manager who understands their value (a rare occurrence at Big Fish).
    C) Mediocre, or young and naive developers. These people have also been tricked by the A category. They probably think Big Fish is the best place they've ever worked at because it's fun, the people are nice, and they get to work with games. It doesn't matter that they have to work with enormous amounts of tech debt, abandoned tools that no one wants ownership of that are required for normal processes, and have regular crunch times to hit deadlines. They think that's all normal.

    If you care about making things better and retaining good software devs, you need to hire a good consultant to observe your company and show you what's really going on. Someone who has been following the real software development world in the past 10 years.

    No, I would not recommend this company to a friend – I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company

    • Culture & Values
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Career Opportunities
    • Approves of CEO

    1 person found this helpful  

    Overall a good place to work, but could be improved

    Anonymous Employee (Current Employee) Seattle, WA

    ProsGood location, nice view.
    Benefits are pretty good: free bus pass, good health/vision/dental coverage, lots of subsidies for other services.
    Most of the people I work with are enjoyable to work with, intelligent, and open to ideas. I enjoy the team I'm on and like my manager.
    Great yearly parties (want more!)
    Generally I have the opportunity to participate in learning events on and off site, but I usually have to take the initiative in finding these and asking my manager.
    Good work/life balance, at least on my team. It varies from dept to dept.
    I think the executive team does make good decisions in general. I think the company will continue to be successful.

    ConsCompensation is low for game industry. They claim it is the median rate, but they could attract a lot more talent by being more competitive.
    I feel a large disconnect between myself and the executives. Some are more approachable than others, but most seem to think they are above you and don't try to engage with you.
    A lot of the leadership (at all levels) is promoted from within. This can be a good thing, but I've had some issues with past managers because they simply aren't good leaders.

    Advice to Senior ManagementOffer more competitive pay.
    Invest in more learning opportunities to grow careers and produce better leaders.

    Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend – I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company

  1. We want your feedback – Are these company reviews helpful to you?  Yes | No
    • Culture & Values
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Career Opportunities
    • Approves of CEO

    2 people found this helpful  

    Strategy & Culture

    Anonymous Employee (Former Employee)

    ProsHigh quality Products
    Location - right on Sound - great views from West side
    Atmosphere - people are friendly and mostly honest
    Market position/profile - in casual games community
    perks - solid base, travel and great industry parties

    ConsClosed minded mgt. New ides were well presented, but not recognized or accepted as the best direction which will impact the long term vaibility of company
    Short term thinking. Business closed Cloud Gaming after 12 months operation.

    Advice to Senior ManagementInvest for long term, not qtr/qtr or year by year
    Don't hire for annual projects, talent won't stay

    No, I would not recommend this company to a friend

    • Culture & Values
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Career Opportunities
    • Approves of CEO

     

    Fun casual work place, where games is a natural part of all activities

    Customer Support Representative (Current Employee) Seattle, WA

    Prosgreat work life balance, fun to be part of the shifting game industry. great location close to nice views and great restaurants.

    ConsCompensations not totally competitive. There needs to be more sharing of information across departments and more clearer organisation structures.

    Advice to Senior ManagementTrust your employees to do the job well.

    Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend – I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company

    • Culture & Values
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Career Opportunities
    • Approves of CEO

    2 people found this helpful  

    Relatively low stress, good work/life balance but frequent changes in company direction.

    Anonymous Employee (Current Employee) Seattle, WA

    ProsAwesome manager and co-workers, great work/life balance, super flexible hours. Raises and bonuses readily available if you work for it.

    ConsFrequent changes to overall company direction and how employee performance evaluations are conducted. General lack of communication across departments. Some positions in the company do not have clear paths of promotion or are limited. Company is sometimes plagued by indecision or decision making by committees.

    Advice to Senior ManagementThe company could be a lot more efficient if clear, well-defined goals were set. Reduce the amount of decision making done by committees.

    Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend

    • Culture & Values
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Career Opportunities
    • No Opinion of CEO

    2 people found this helpful  

    A Very Ordinary Company in an Extraordinary Game Industry

    Game Developer (Former Employee)

    ProsSchedule was somewhat flexible
    Company name recognition
    Gym located inside building
    Complimentary beverages for employees
    It's a game company so you'll be playing games

    ConsHealth Insurance package is poor and not for family oriented employees.
    Salaries offered are below industry average for the game industry.
    The company is located next to Elliott Ave which is often congested with traffic during the daytime. Although in Lower Queen Anne, there are few restaurants within a reasonable walking distance. The post office is still a good 20 min walk. If you do not live in the city you will have to transfer to a bus route that is sporadic at best. Parking at the company is not free and street parking is difficult to come by.
    In regards to the work environment, it is a traditional management hierarchy. However, I found that there was a consistent hiring of C-level employees. I worked with the game development division of the company; I felt that many employees were of low educational levels. I noticed that many coworkers were community college or lower including leads and managers even at the executive level. This did tend to lower the performance bar. Managers often promoted and recruited lower tier employees and overall this was not conducive in attracting top-tier talent.

    Advice to Senior ManagementMy advice to upper management would be to offer a more competitive compensation package to attract top-tier talent. A-level talent will attract more A-level talent. Free thinking and innovation, which is currently lacking, will lead to increased revenue.
    Also consider moving. The current location of the company headquarters is a poor choice. It is worth the money.

    No, I would not recommend this company to a friend – I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company

    • Culture & Values
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Career Opportunities
    • Approves of CEO

    1 person found this helpful  

    Fun place to work, friendly atmosphere and minimal bureaucracy

    Senior Software Engineer (Former Employee) Seattle, WA

    ProsThe company trusts you and gives a lot of freedom (no macro-management).
    If you are put on the right projects, you end up working on cutting-edge technologies.
    The team is very receptive of your ideas and lets you experiment with it.
    "Never make the same mistake twice" is the kind of culture you work in and you feel encouraged to try out new stuff.
    Great work-life balance.

    ConsSometimes the top level vision changes even before the current iteration is complete. Can't blame the company as the gaming industry itself is very volatile.

    Advice to Senior ManagementIf some projects are not working as expected, explore other alternatives before pulling the plug completely.

    Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend – I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company

    • Culture & Values
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Career Opportunities
    • Approves of CEO

    1 person found this helpful  

    Review for Oakland, CA office (Self Aware Games)

    UI Designer (Current Employee) Oakland, CA

    ProsI can't speak for the Seattle location but here are my thoughts on the Oakland, CA office (Self Aware Games)-

    - Everyone is very intelligent, driven, and very good at what they do
    - A slew of wonderful perks and activities: offsite events, parties, physical therapist, kitchen
    - Versatility in projects (at least in the Art Dept.)...you get to work on what you are really interested in/want to get exposed to
    - GREAT work/life balance. It's a strong value here and that's very rare in gaming and tech
    - People here know how to work hard and have fun doing it...every day is a total joy!
    - Relaxed environment with very reasonable deadlines
    - Wonderful health benefits

    Cons- Pay can be lower than average (I took a large pay-cut from previous position but it's been 100% worth it)
    - A big disconnect from the Seattle office (our parent company Big Fish Games)

    Advice to Senior Management- Put more focus on internal development of your people: offer external learning opportunities, unique challenges, and promote a stronger culture of open communication and feedback.

    Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend – I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company

    • Culture & Values
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Career Opportunities
    • No Opinion of CEO

    1 person found this helpful  

    A company trying to find itself in a big industry.

    Production Artist (Former Employee) Seattle, WA

    ProsReally flexible work hours, helps maintain a great work/life balance.
    Massive selection of free drinks. Largest I've seen at a company.
    Department outings were extremely fun and let you get to know your co-workers much better.

    ConsSeems to be a bit directionless at the moment and is latching on to whatever they can.
    Overcrowded break areas, too many people using too small of a space.

    Advice to Senior ManagementTake care of your employees. When I started it was one of the greatest things about working there but as time had gone on it seemed to get more corporate.

    Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend

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