- Work/Life Balance
- Culture & Values
- Career Opportunities
- Comp & Benefits
- Senior Management
I worked at Wizards of the Coast full-time (More than 3 years)
Some of the most talented, creative, and passionate people I've ever had the pleasure to work with. Exciting new projects in the works. A growing awareness of weaknesses and efforts made to improve. Increased efforts and awareness in inclusivity and career development. Active steps are being taken to create more mentorship and opportunities to seek growth. You also get to work on some really, genuinely fun and innovative games and products. Free product, free sodas, decent if small gym, subsidized fitness coaching to work off said sodas. Half day Friday's for non-R&D teams. Strong work-life balance, good vacation package. If under good managers, you have the opportunity to contribute to arenas that aren't your specialty. There's real chances to make visible impacts on our games and products, and have your voice matter.
Some inherited inefficiencies or lack of process hampers the ability to get work done. Overdone and archaic processes at other points grind innovation to a halt. There's a need to build better systems to support the workflows. This is true across a number of disciplines at the company.
A feeling of reactionary decision making and last minute changes have permeated since new leadership. It's a fine line between flexible and nimble responses, and flailing knee-jerk 180's, and it feels like recent months have been the latter.
Opaque communication and lack of transparency at times results in lack of confidence across teams and efforts.
There are a few folks in leadership roles that perhaps shouldn't be, and it stifles the ability for teams to achieve at maximum potential. Aggressive masculine styles of communication and claiming credit for work by teams still seems to generally rule the day (and the meetings), especially at mid-tier management. This is despite some outstanding women who have risen in leadership. They seem to be the exception, not the rule.
Benefits package could use improvement; just not competitive with other companies in the area.
A shortage of headcount creates high pressure scenarios across teams, and overburdens top performers with increasing risks of burnout.
Contractors get the short end of the stick, and transparency of possibility of conversion to full-time or extension of contract is oftentimes lacking. This is occluded by the fact many departments genuinely strive to provide conversion, and fall through late in the process, but this doesn't lessen the impact on the contractors left in limbo or notified with short or no time to seek next steps and opportunities.
There is a serious challenge of not being competitive in the compensation offered when compared to many (admittedly bigger) companies in the area.
There is a real wall in terms of advancement and ways to grow a career. Poor or short-sighted directors or managers stifle employee opportunities instead of encourage. Great ones promote the mobility that helps make the company great and nimble. Great managers also help an employee find their best fit, but the weak links actively push talent away from the company.
Advice to Management
Continue to clarify communications and decision making so directions the company takes don't feel so reactionary and knee-jerk. Be more proactive to get ahead of your messaging; overshare on thought processes where possible, to help build confidence and understanding of decisions made.
Trust your Subject Matter Experts! We say it, but sometimes we don't do it. This is true on projects, but also in management; as a manager or director, trust your team lead when they share their report's desires and concerns.
Allow your reports the opportunity to grow beyond their role. Don't state it superficially, then not follow through when opportunities (and needs) arise.
Embrace and empower the passion for the games and products your employees bring, but don't take advantage of it.
Recognize your weaknesses and blind spots and hire to help you shore up and spot them. Our employees shouldn't all be life-long fans of our games. We need more diverse perspectives to see where we can grow.
I realize this review may read negative, but many of these things are in progress or have been identified company-wide. Wizards is a great place to work for many reasons, and it is working hard on its weaknesses. In my tenure there it has already improved in many ways, and there are innumerable folks there that I cannot wait to work with again.
I have been working at Wizards of the Coast full-time
Some of the most passionate and talented individuals I've ever worked with. A product that I've loved and has been a huge part of my identity since my early childhood.
I've loved Magic since I was a child, and working in R&D was a lifelong dream. When I first joined Wizards over a year ago, I was excited, proud and looking forward to living in that dream job.
Unfortunately, the reality is something much uglier. Wizards is rife with gender discrimination and sexual harassment as a matter of daily course, and that behavior and its perpetrators are tolerated and even protected at the highest levels.
If you are a woman, or gender queer, your career at Wizards will be governed by the most transparent of glass ceilings, unless you're willing to grit your teeth through daily indignities and flatter your way into advancement.
This is a stark hypocrisy when juxtaposed to the stated goals, culture and values of the company, and it's disgusting.
Advice to Management
You're going to have to start valuing people in different ways, or your culture will continue to degrade.
I worked at Wizards of the Coast full-time
Everyone at Wizards eventually gets the opportunity to help Magic and D&D grow (though you will not likely be credited for your efforts). There are occasional game nights, employee prereleases, and you get free product for both brands.
A play area recently opened up on the first floor, and it's nicely decorated, giving people a cool place to hang out without having to hijack empty meeting rooms. The overall atmosphere is relaxed and almost all of the employees are very friendly.
Wizards is great at a few things when it comes to making physical games. A few departments such as R&D, creative, and art teams have their process down extremely well. If it weren't for these departments performing adequately, creating fun and beautiful games, and sincerely caring about the enjoyment of the product, the entire company would be in horrible shape.
*** Compensation ***
Salary is well below industry standards. Benefits are ridiculously poor, to the point where most employees take the bare minimum while cringing and complaining at the huge expense (nothing is done to address this).
*** Management ***
Extremely conservative company with rigid and inefficient infrastructure. Zero career pathing for employees. Advancement very rare, most jobs turn into dead end grinds. Many managers in key areas have found themselves in positions they are unqualified to perform, but fly under the radar because work generally goes unchecked as long as the company continues to make money. The company avoids change and risk (change and risk are basically the same thing for WotC) at all costs for fear of disrupting the Magic: The Gathering profit machine.
*** Communication and meetings ***
Internal communication within the company is embarrassingly poor. More e-mails are sent regarding team lunches and last minute emergencies than all project planning and progress report e-mails combined.
Instead of properly utilizing e-mail, there's a strong meeting culture within most departments where managers hop from meeting to meeting every hour of the day, every day of the week. This is viewed as very productive work time in the eyes of upper management. Weekly held two-hour meetings are common. Nobody in the building has training on how to actually run a meeting, so they are almost always unstructured and overly conversational.
If a decision within a meeting is somehow reached, it's because time is up and the continuation of a project depends on it. Because of the lack of communication, unpleasant surprises are a regular occurrence which are happily solved with even more meetings.
Often times, an event or project will go poorly, but will be presented in post as a moderate success in order to save face in front of executive management. The company has no idea how to rate the success of its own projects unless they are sales related.
If a failure is somehow spotted by executive management, there's usually a lot of buck passing until managing staff are no longer to blame and the problem is forgotten about. With a constant flow of products and game updates, the next big freak out is only days away and very little time is allowed for any real managerial upkeep.
*** Work environment ***
While the lobby is nicely decorated, the look and feel of the office space remains dingy. The carpets are old and stained. The only free snacks are terrible Seattle's Best drip coffee and microwave popcorn. Office furniture is years old and is never replaced, only shuffled around from cube to cube. The technology side is even worse.
*** Digital ***
Any Magic Online player or frequent website visitor can tell you Wizards is horrible at anything and everything digital. Internally they refer to themselves as a modern digital company, but they then pay programmers next to nothing and expect long work hours when something breaks. They insist on doing nearly all digital development in-house under these circumstances, dumping the occasional money injection into specific areas (not salary raises) that are in critical condition. Sort of like an old dying car that costs hundreds of dollars to repair every few months just to keep the wheels turning.
*** Employee morale ***
There are a few great teams which are a joy to witness. These are the teams that make Magic and D&D the awesome experiences they are. These products succeed despite the terrible planning, marketing, and communication efforts performed by the rest of the company. Thankfully the playerbase is much better at promoting the game than Wizards is.
Upper management caught wind of the low morale roughly two years ago, recognizing that people were unhappy with management practices and low recognition and celebration of their work. An entire year later, after many more quit, they actually decided to do something about it. No, they didn't increase pay or benefits, and no they didn't introduce any training for their team members that could improve their management skills. Instead, they formed multiple internal committees to address specific areas of improvement. This was a very modern concept for Wizards, and was well received because it was the first time upper management seemed to care about their unhappy employees. Unfortunately these committees really only added up to more meetings made up of, you guessed it, mostly middle and upper management.
After a year of these meetings, work was the same as ever with only a few superficial reports of progress gleaned from their efforts. Most employees now realize that the committees themselves were only a weak attempt to appear concerned with the morale problem.
Advice to Management
Stop filling your day with meetings and stop letting those you manage do the same. The meeting culture is destroying the productivity of several teams. Try actually speaking to an employee that's more than one level below you. Book the occasional one-on-one with them and actually find out if your subordinate managers are doing what they're supposed to be doing when you aren't looking. You'll be surprised to find that the person you are managing poorly is also managing their team poorly.
Stop celebrating and congratulating managers who deliver sub-par work that is weeks (sometimes months) behind deadline.
If you really care about the happiness of your employees and the success of your brand, loosen up and stop being so controlling over it. Make your employees remember why they chose Wizards of the Coast in the first place, and let them have some fun experimenting in their own space. Do this because it will make them happy, not because it will make you look good. Take your team out to lunch more than once a year and stop waiting until Halloween to have a fun office event.
Take a look at projects with a yearly occurrence, and question why they are still happening. Stop pouring thousands into annual efforts that only exist because someone decided they were a good idea 5 years ago.
Either stop being stingy with pay checks or stop being stingy with product. The current system is better than it used to be, but there's no reason to treat Magic cards like gold. You make millions of them a year, yet most employees have a hard time constructing a Modern deck. Considering how far the free product goes towards making up for the company's shortcomings, events centered around employee happiness (like Employee Appreciation Week) are less exciting than ever.
I have been working at Wizards of the Coast full-time (More than 5 years)
People are passionate about the brands they work on - everyone cares about making a positive impact. Note that this means that if you aren't passionate about our brands, this place probably isn't for you!
People work hard, but also play as well. There is active encouragement to engage in our brands.
The work/life balance is excellent. In general, I see people work 40-45 hours a week, with some of that being playing our games.
The company is organized to best support the delivery of paper products and create face to face gaming experiences. This is mostly great, but has challenged the company as it has tried to expand into digital gaming. We need to organize differently to be more effective in this arena.
Compensation is naturally low. However, if you take this into your own hands by researching other companies and being open about competitive offers you can get paid what you deserve.
Empowerment of employees varies greatly by department. In general, R&D is in a good spot, but many of the other departments suffer from micromanagement.
Advice to Management
Reorganize to improve in digital gaming (or license it out completely).
I worked at Wizards of the Coast (More than 3 years)
Half day Fridays, free product, getting to play Magic and D&D at work, relaxed hourly schedule. and lots of free food. The technical team working on the non-game systems and the Magic Online business team is run rather well and cares about the player experience. R&D is the unsung heroes of the company as they keep making Magic a fun game. Customer Service fills in all over the company to their credit.
-Lack of empathy in the executive team and very little understanding of technology
-Unprofessional behavior accepted from senior leaders
-Tons of politics and backstabbing
-Office dating all over the place causing tension
-Completely risk averse
-Dire fear of change or losing job or title
-Very little collaboration
-Many of the directors were simply good at "playing the game"
-Lots of win-lose scenarios, blaming and finger pointing
-Managers who intimidate their employees and anyone who disagrees with them (especially in the Magic Online technical group)
I have been working at Wizards of the Coast as a contractor (More than 3 years)
The ability to work on world-famous IPs people genuinely care about.
Non-compete clauses force creators to keep their head down and work within overly restrictive limits. Corporate cuts always affect R&D funding first, ensuring that middle management survives while creative elements die out. No thought is given to creating or fostering new brands in favor of maintaining a status quo that any outsider can see has a limited shelf-life. No thought is given to creating new games to compete in markets slowly being overtaken by companies with more competitive market strategies. Individual career growth for independent contributors and creative positions is nonexistent. Benefits for full-time employees have been slashed in the last fiscal year. Wages in technology departments are significantly less than average.
Advice to Management
If you are going to hire creative people LET THEM CREATE. Stop creating fiefdoms of project managers. Create avenues for advancement besides migrating into management. Companies such as Boeing are learning how to do this, why can't you? Grow brands by creating games. Don't be afraid to disrupt the status quo. MAKE SENIOR MANAGEMENT ACCOUNTABLE TO SO-CALLED 'CORE VALUES'.
Magic has grown tremendously over the last 5 years. Most of the Magic brand team is very passionate about the game (largely because they are avid players). There is truly only one trained marketer on the Magic team and she is relatively new.
D&D brand team is very solid, hard working, visionary, and capable.
The Creative teams are impressive. The art and manufacturing is top of class.
HR team has talent; is the best in recent memory (maybe ever)
Technology team is finally picking up steam (and improving morale) largely due to a significant improvement in leadership.
Finance leadership is solid, contemporary, and relevant. They are highly involved.
R&D designs great paper Magic, but is not poised with the talent to design in the digital world.
Magic brand team leadership lacks transformative vision and are generally novice managers who are more interested in ego and empire building than anything else.
The Web Publishing team is a complete disaster, failing to deliver anything of significance technologically and the latest project was a colossal failure by any measure.
The marketing team's culture, established by its leader, is based on masoginistic narcissism and ego-based decision making. Everyone works to satisfy the leadership's constantly changing emotional whims.
Ideas are torn down and constantly refactored so that "proper credit" can be accepted upward.
Everything is blamed on either the Sales team or the Technology team.
HR is powerless because executive bullying is allowed, especially in Marketing and Sales, where Marketing in particular believes they are over-qualified in every discipline.
Magic Online Business team leadership is unqualified
Executive team has only four qualified executives in positions to take the company forward; HR, Finance, Technology, and CEO.
Advice to Management
There is so much potential in the staff that can simply be unlocked by letting go of the cancerous parts of the leadership team that just intentionally provoke discord. Focus the executive team on their own functional areas and stop allowing them to pick each other's teams apart. This company is not Turbine; some of us have worked at Turbine and can say definitively that this behavior was not allowed there either.
I worked at Wizards of the Coast full-time (More than 5 years)
Everything on the game R&D side seems great. They produce a great product and have a loyal consumer base.
If you're with the company in any other capacity aside from active R&D on a product line, expect to be overworked and underpaid. Despite the best efforts and token gestures of senior management, the company is still very top-down, and middle to upper-middle management tends to be extremely cut throat. Questioning a supervisor in any capacity isn't welcomed, regardless of whether you end up being correct and you'll likely be more penalized for not being 'in line' than your supervisor will be for being wrong. Marketing/branding/sales have an absurdly disproportionate amount of sway in matters not directly related to their department, to the detriment of everyone involved.
Advice to Management
Greg Leeds, the CEO, seems to genuinely care and want to hear from the people in the trenches, but he's surrounded by severely incompetent middle management that don't accurately relay (or honestly, even understand) the problems with the company.
Sadly, as awesome as it is to be a gamer working for a game company, that is also Wizards of the Coast's biggest failure. The company is absolutely FULL of people in important positions that have no business doing the jobs they are expected to do. There are dozens of people who have no qualifications in marketing, customer support, game development, or management that are making key decisions. Management needs to start making people responsible for their own failures rather than constantly passing the blame down.
Short version: cut the yes men and start hiring based on qualifications rather than tenure.
I worked at Wizards of the Coast full-time (More than 5 years)
If you're a Magic player, working in Magic R&D would be your dream job. Everyone in Magic R&D seems happy, and there's a great team spirit in that department. If you're thinking about a job in Magic R&D, go for it. If you can get in (it's incredibly competitive), you'll have an amazing time.
Overall, the work-life balance is great, though there are teams who are overworked. In some teams, working at Wizards is an easy job - half-day Fridays, no real pressure to deliver, and a decent benefits package.
If you're a software developer, stay far away. Wizards is not a software company, and its software projects are buggy, slow, bloated, and poorly thought-out. Random changes will come down from marketing or management. Key technical decisions will be made by non-technical staff. You will work in Waterfall, whether you like it or not. You will be underpaid (Wizards pays below market for most positions), and blamed for the failures of the products you work on.
If you want to work in a great, dynamic team, stay away. Wizards is governed by consensus and politics. It's slow to act, slow to react, and features Dilbert-style top-down edicts from senior management. It's also governed by a huge push for cost-cutting, which means that many projects are under-funded (and the blame game happens when they fail).
If you want to do anything new and innovative, stay away (unless you can get into Magic R&D - see above). Innovation is unwelcome at Wizards. Between the politics, cost-cutting, and top-down direction, new ideas are seen as actively bad, and promoting them can severely limit your career.
Advice to Management
Decide whether you're a branding company or a software company. Divest the other half of your business to a company that specializes in that work. Once you've done that, find a way to strip out the consensus and politics, and build a more agile, innovative organization.
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