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Sony Online Entertainment Reviews

Updated August 23, 2017
93 reviews

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3.0
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Sony Online Entertainment President John Smedley
John Smedley
66 Ratings

93 Employee Reviews

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Pros
  • Lots of great people and artists at the company (in 9 reviews)

  • Prior to the layoffs there was not much crunch time and work/life balance was well rounded (in 5 reviews)

Cons
  • Long hours, upper management can seem out of touch, scheduling can be a mess (in 7 reviews)

More Pros and Cons

  1. "terrible management"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    Pros

    free events, food trucks on site

    Cons

    terrible management, lack of professionalism, no accountability


  2. Helpful (1)

    "SOE - fatally flawed"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in San Diego, CA
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in San Diego, CA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at Sony Online Entertainment (Less than a year)

    Pros

    Amazing pool of talent. Absorbent amount of resources for developers. Good benefits.

    Cons

    Gross mismanagement of resources. Majority of production managers up to top execs were the plague of every product development cycle throughout hostly of company. Apart from EQ expansions, every single product was over budget and grossly over schedule. Incredibly over-extended use of crunch time showed massive oversights by managers in assessing scope, staff and scheduling time and time again. Massive gaps in productivity were not sensibly evaluated, instead the use of laying off employees was the go-to quick fix. Layoffs went from being a rare (every few years) event to a bi-annual one. Employee and community connection to product integrity was an ever-widening gap to the point where Employees could no longer defend their efforts due to bad creative decisions left to management. Any prior successful models were ignored and faulty tactics made by execs were a repeated annual pattern enough to harken that famous quote by Albert Einstein about insanity.

    Advice to Management

    SOE has since been bought out and had a shift in management. I cannot attest to new structure but still know many devs there and wish them all the best... pay attention to past mistakes.

  3. Helpful (6)

    "Nice People Who Are Too Accepting Of Mediocrity And Nepotism"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Senior Software Engineer in San Diego, CA
    Current Employee - Senior Software Engineer in San Diego, CA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I have been working at Sony Online Entertainment full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    The expectations are very low and you'll often be play testing games. Most people are very nice.

    Cons

    Game team leadership has an abundance of arrogance and elitism.
    Game teams hire their friends and ignore talent from other departments.
    Compensation is well below market.
    No stock options or grants.
    No opportunity for advancement (no one is let go for poor performance).
    It's easy to pick up bad habits as management resists change.
    With little to no coding standards, the game code is a mess.
    The company is continuing to downsize as players leave EQ and EQII.
    Significant use of contractors.

    Advice to Management

    Eliminate under performers and promote those who excel.
    Develop a company wide coding standard and enforce it.
    Bring back the internship program, particularly for designers and developers.
    Stop over promising to customers.
    Substantially raise hiring standards and compensation.


  4. Helpful (8)

    "Get out as soon as you get on a development team."

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Senior Game Designer in San Diego, CA
    Current Employee - Senior Game Designer in San Diego, CA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I have been working at Sony Online Entertainment full-time (More than 8 years)

    Pros

    - Good place to get your start in the industry.
          Promotions from QA & CS are common. If you bump into Smedley (current CEO) in the street and say something that amuses him, he may also hire you without any previous game/development/tech experience.

     - Impossible to get fired.
          It doesn't matter if you don't actually do anything, you can keep your job indefinitely, especially if you're a programmer. See: Cons

     - There are several brewery tasting rooms nearby.
          They're within walking distance so you can drown your sorrows before, during, or after work.

    Cons

    - Complete incompetence of management.
          The people steering the ship have no idea what they're doing. Nobody in charge has made a successful game this century. They also refuse to listen to the few experienced individuals who they have managed to hire.

    - Inexperienced staff.
          Since there is such a prevalence of individuals that have been promoted out of QA/CS/the street, the vast majority of people have only ever worked in game development at SOE. In several areas (particularly production) it's a case of the blind leading the blind. Nobody receives the training necessary to KNOW how to do their job properly.

     - Low turnover.
          The ratio of useful employees to useless ones skews heavily toward the latter. In addition to being plagued with inexperienced staff, most development teams have staff that either doesn't actually work, or are just straight up bad at their job. There is no personal responsibility or discipline taken against employees who continually fail to deliver. Bad employees are never let go as Smedley (and therefor all of upper management) sees the company not as a business, but as a family. Having a family is great, but this one is full of siblings you wish you could disown.

     - Too much value placed on programmers.
          In reality, they're the easiest to replace as most positions in this discipline can be recruited from outside the games industry. In every round of layoffs that the company has had, the programming department is always the least affected (often not at all affected), leading to an abundance of programmers who have no reason to fear losing their jobs and continue to underperform.

     - Unclear pipelines & muddy communication.
          The flow of information between disciplines is terrible. This is mostly due to inexperienced production staff, but is also affected by middle management never having been exposed to a functional work environment.

     - Poor games.
          It should go without saying, but all of the above is what contributes to the overall fact that the quality of games being created by SOE is terrible. The budgets are AAA, but the results are worse than most dedicated hobbyists could pull off. The structure that supports SOE allows it to create MMOs, which is the only thing that makes this company unique. This genre is dying and in need of some large changes to revitalize it, unfortunately I don't think the current incarnation of SOE is capable of doing that.

    Advice to Management

    - Complete any projects that have direction and achievable goals with positive outlook
          - Planetside on PS4
          - DCUO expansion
          - EQ & EQ2 expansions
     - Cancel everything else
          - EQ Next
          - Landmark
          - H1Z1
     - Remove C-level staff
     - Remove Franchise Directors
     - Lay off vast majority of programming staff
          - Ask senior programmers who is worth keeping
     - Ask remaining programmers, artists, designers and producers who actually WANTS to stay
          - The number is so low it may shock you
     - Change the name of the company
     - Recruit competent C-level employees
     - Restaff back up to 25% or less of the original headcount
          - Being far more selective and only hiring quality employees
     - During this restructuring time period, use the talent on hand to enter preproduction
          - A hand full of small (MMO/non-MMO & mobile) titles
          - Evaluate all projects and only enter production on few
          - Ensure reasonable scope, given this simple formula
                - cost = time * headcount


  5. Helpful (4)

    "Employees are NOT NPCs!"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Senior Software Engineer in San Diego, CA
    Former Employee - Senior Software Engineer in San Diego, CA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at Sony Online Entertainment full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    The people at SOE are so creative. Working with the game designers and the artists was quite a kick.

    Cons

    The team I worked on pretty much ran on long hours, insane deadlines, and incompetent incomprehensible management. The throw the phrase "crunch time" around like it's breakfast cereal, then take off on their own multi-week vacations.

    Advice to Management

    Hire some? Consider replacing most of your directors and all of your VPs with someone who actually knows and/or cares that SOE is a BUSINESS.


  6. Helpful (5)

    "Company needs improvement"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in San Diego, CA
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in San Diego, CA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at Sony Online Entertainment full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    Prior to the layoffs there was not much crunch time and work/life balance was well rounded.

    Cons

    At SOE, dialog was focused on results, structural reasons for results, external market reasons for results, any reason for results that did not require an understanding or accountability for what is really going on internally with employees and effective management within the company. There is a lack of emotional intelligence to be honest about what is really going on. SOE has a management issue and it starts by nobody wanting to even talk about it. Because emotional intelligence lacks among top leadership, the problem proliferates at all levels of the organization. There are great people that can’t express themselves, can’t contribute to their potential because questioning the “reality” is not within the company’s culture. Because of this, SOE does not take the risks they need to take to be great, at any level.

    Advice to Management

    Take more responsibility for your actions.


  7. Helpful (7)

    "Avoid, Avoid, Avoid"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Developer in San Diego, CA
    Current Employee - Developer in San Diego, CA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I have been working at Sony Online Entertainment full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    Typically the hours don't crunch very much and the day-to-day work/life balance is even.

    Cons

    This company is riddled with people who have simply given up, or newbs being trained by beaten down has-been's. It's like a retirement home for developers who once cared about making great games. It is truly uninspiring to work in this atmosphere and it most definitely shows in the games that SOE produces (Even though upper management and Smed say that they're so amazing..yea (cough) sure). You will probably move up in the company if you "play ball" (aka: kiss ass, keep your mouth shut, and don't rock the boat), and in doing so you're basically selling out to a corporate/political force that is very much present. The management is the most incompetent I've ever seen, they allow employees to get away with unacceptably low standards of quality and effort and never take action on anyone or anything even though it's obvious that they should. Most people who work here have families so they are simply not willing to open their mouths, send that email, or ask that question that NEEDS TO BE ASKED/DONE. Everyone has given up and it is NOT the place to be if you are interested in making great games. I didn't feel lucky to work at SOE in any sense and quite frankly felt as though I took many steps backwards in my career.

    Advice to Management

    Fire yourselves.

  8. Helpful (6)

    "A flaming hole of suck"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Associate Producer in San Diego, CA
    Former Employee - Associate Producer in San Diego, CA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at Sony Online Entertainment full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    Free bottled water... that's about it.

    Cons

    Nepotism and gross incompetence at the executive and director levels. I worked on multiple projects ordered by the exec team that resulted in negative revenue or 0% conversion. I was also instructed to work on multiple projects that were cancelled suddenly without explanation. Essentially... there is no coherent strategy or direction. Ever.

    General inattention to quality by a lot of C-grade employees who make up a disturbing proportion of the workforce. Software bugs in everything - both the games and the websites. If you work here, be prepared to do your own QA on any project.

    Processes are a horrible mutation of Agile which don't resemble any industry standard that I'm aware of.

    P.S. Working on smoggy Miramar Road will cut your life expectancy by 2 years.

    Advice to Management

    Clean up your infrastructure and fire ineffective people.


  9. Helpful (7)

    "Do not work here"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - QA Tester in San Diego, CA
    Current Employee - QA Tester in San Diego, CA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I have been working at Sony Online Entertainment full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    Free Coffee and Ping Pong Tables

    Cons

    Terrible pay, excessive overtime, clique like managements. Outdated software development techniques. Life becomes the job, not family friendly.

    Advice to Management

    Listen to your employees and care for their needs. Implement new strategies for success, and forget about what you did in the 90's.


  10. Helpful (5)

    "Poor scheduling and oblivious management"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at Sony Online Entertainment full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    Being part of the Sony family comes with some perks. Regular employees are generally talented and professional.

    Cons

    Completely broken schedule. Very poor awareness of environment by management. Cronyism. Old Boys Club. I've also heard from many of the programmers (what's left of them) that the game code is some of the worst coding they've ever seen and that they are constantly told there isn't any time for improvements. They also for whatever reason decided to break up an already understaffed client team to work on another project.

    Advice to Management

    There isn't much advice to give to management that they haven't already heard. I think there is a general refusal to accept reality here. It has been said before but there is an obvious attachment to certain individuals at the company that anywhere else would be fired for a small fraction of the failures that have happened on their watch. Between the finger pointing when things go wrong, to an obvious lack of understanding in the subject matter that they are supposed to be experts in, it really forces the rest of us to take on their responsibilities while getting paid a fraction of what they do to sit in a closed office doing who knows what. I've watched several people come and go in short time and the reasons for leaving are always bad management and bad planning.


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