The video game industry is exploding. As established game companies rake in bigger profits every year, new studios spring up and try for a share of the ever-growing pile of gamer cash. Unfortunately, most will end up empty-handed. Whether you blame it on talent or on pure luck, only a few new studios will succeed, while most will fail.
As a player, it might not matter which studios come and go, as long as there’s a constant stream of new games to try. But if you’re looking for work as a game developer, you should care a lot more. Because you want your next job to be at a studio that’s in business for long term — otherwise, you’ll be looking for a new job all over again this time next year.
But how can you know which game studios will still be around in a year or two? Which ones are the most stable? And which ones treat their employees (and players) well, so you won’t rage quit due to bad management or a terrible work-life balance? There’s no way to predict the future, but if you’re looking for a game studio that’s stable and treats their employees well, the best way to predict the future is to look at the past. Ask yourself these questions:
- Have they been around long enough to survive the “startup” phase, or are they still untested and in danger of running out of cash?
- Have their games become successful franchises, or have you never heard of them?
- Do they have a history of treating their employees well, or are they constantly embattled with embarrassing news articles, or even lawsuits?
Let’s take a look at some of the top game companies to work at, and evaluate how well they treat their employees. There are hundreds of game studios in the world, but today we’re going to look at companies with a proven track record (at least 10 years) and have created enduring franchises that gamers everywhere know and love.
Headquarters: Santa Monica, California, USA
Company type: Developer, publisher, esports tournament organizer
Famous games: Call of Duty, Overwatch, Diablo, World of Warcraft, StarCraft, Hearthstone
Job openings: https://www.activisionblizzard.com/careers
Founded in 2008, Activision Blizzard is a huge company that owns several other large game companies including Activision Publishing, Blizzard Entertainment, King, Major League Gaming, and Activision Blizzard Studios. Taken together, those studios have been in business for well over 100 combined years, and have created some of the most long-lived and successful game franchises in history.
Is it a good place to work? According to Glassdoor, 59% of employees say they would recommend it to a friend. While anonymous reviews say it’s “a great place to work” and “Not for the faint hearted but the strong can thrive,” others mention that the leadership is “dysfunctional” and that it has “Some great things, some not so much.”
Do they care? Activision Blizzard has received accolades for being a great place to work, including Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018) and People Magazine’s “Companies that Care” list (2017, 2018). They also created the Call of Duty Endowment (CODE), which has funded the placement of over 50,000 veterans into high-quality jobs.
To find and apply for jobs working at Epic Games,
Headquarters: Bellevue, WA
Company type: Developer, publisher, digital distribution company
Famous games: Half-life, Portal, DOTA 2, Left 4 Dead, Steam distribution service
Founded in 1996, what started as an independent game developer has now grown into one of the most successful game developers in history, thanks to their pioneering game design as well as the invention of the world’s most popular distribution platform for digital games: Steam.
Is it a good place to work? According to Glassdoor, 63% of employees would recommend it to a friend. While some employees call it a “Dream company” and an “Awesome company with good perks,” others caution that the company offers “High pay, low morale.” Valve is famous for having a flat management hierarchy, which some employees love, but others say it leads to “Toxic teams, traumatized workers, opaque management hierarchy.”
Do they care? Valve has been in hot water with international regulators who are responsible for protecting players. In 2014, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission filed a lawsuit against Valve accusing them of “misleading or deceptive conduct” and “false or misleading representations about consumer guarantees.” In 2017, the European Commission investigated Valve for anti-competitive practices, due to Steam’s practice of geo-blocking the storefront and product keys to prevent them from being accessed from certain countries.
Headquarters: West Los Angeles, California, USA
Company type: Game developer, publish, and esports tournament organizer
Most famous games: League of Legends
Founded in 2006, Riot Games rose to fame after launching League of Legends, one of the pioneers and early successes in the “games as a service” business model. Today, Riot also operates several international esports league competitions viewed by millions of fans each year. Riot seems to have struggled to create another hit game after League, but they certainly have the expertise and the cash resources to keep trying until they succeed.
Is it a good place to work? According to Glassdoor, 70% of employees would recommend it to a friend. While some employees call Riot a “Dream job” and “One of the best places to work” in the game industry, others have criticized, calling it “Toxic” and even “At it’s core, a rotten company,” although another noted “Your quality of life depends on your team.” Since 2018, Riot has been embroiled in multiple public allegations of sexual discrimination, harassment, and misgendering on the job.
Do they care? Despite the allegations of being more like a toxic frat party than a game studio, Riot has received multiple awards, including Business Insider’s “25 Best Tech Companies to Work For” (2013), and Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” (2016).
Headquarters: Santa Monica, California, USA
Company type: First-party game developer
Most famous games: Uncharted, The Last of Us, Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Daxter
Job openings: https://www.naughtydog.com/careers
Founded way back in 1984 as an independent game studio (now owned by Sony Computer Entertainment), Naughty Dog slogged away in relative obscurity for over a decade. But each game they released was better than the last, and today they’re acclaimed by critics and beloved by gamers everywhere, continually winning industry awards for their innovative narratives, characters, and game designs.
Is it a good place to work? According to Glassdoor, 83% of employees would recommend it to a friend. While some employees describe working at Naughty Dog as “World’s top 1st party developer” and “A dream come true,” others advised that it was “Not the best place for people with families,” due to long hours and overtime.
Do they care? While Naughty Dog might require a lot of overtime (making critically-acclaimed games isn’t for the faint of heart), they try to make up for it by offering employees a generous benefits package that includes a chance at additional pay bonuses. (Not to mention, free dinners for employees working late at the office.)
Headquarters: Kyoto, Japan
Company type: Consumer electronics, video game developer, publisher
Most famous games: Mario, Zelda, Pokémon
Job openings: https://careers.nintendo.com/job-openings/
Founded in 1889 (over 100 years ago!), Nintendo is probably the oldest and most famous game company around. They may have started small by making playing cards, but today, of course, they’re an international juggernaut that’s equally famous for their beloved games as for their unique gaming consoles. Personally, they hold a special place in my heart, not just because I grew up playing the NES, but also because the first game I ever made was for Nintendo’s GameBoy Color. Thanks for all the memories, Nintendo!
Is it a good place to work? According to Glassdoor, 81% of Nintendo employees would recommend it to a friend. As you might expect of a company that’s over 100 years old, employee reviews are generally good but not overly enthusiastic (“Great job”, “Stable, traditional, lean”). There may be a culture of late nights for development team members, as one engineer puts it, “Good work life balance but most employees work till late.”
Do they care? Nintendo was named by the Great Place to Work Institute as “Best Workplaces in Canada (1000+ Employees)” (2012), and “Best Workplaces in Canada (for women)” (2012). However, Nintendo’s stubborn lack of transparency has caused them to earn low scores with international watchdog organizations, consistently ranking last in Greenpeace’s “Guide to Greener Electronics” because they repeatedly fail to publish information, and ranked last in the Enough Project’s “Conflict Minerals Company Rankings” for the same reason.
Electronic Arts Inc.
Headquarters: Redwood City, California, USA
Company type: Developer, publisher, digital distribution platform
Most famous games: Battlefield, Need for Speed, The Sims, Dragon Age, Star Wars, Madden
Job openings: https://www.ea.com/careers/careers-overview/worldwide-studios
Founded in 1982 by an ex-Apple Computer employee, Electronic Arts began life as one of the early game developers for the blossoming personal computer (PC) industry. All that changed over the following years, as they’ve now grown into one of the largest and most powerful game companies in history, employing nearly 10,000 employees worldwide.
Is it a good place to work? According to Glassdoor, 70% of employees would recommend Electronic Arts to a friend. While some called it an “Awesome company to work for” that’s full of “Great people,” others cautioned that management is “Asleep,” and complained of “Long hours with tight deadlines.”
Do they care? Starting in 2004 with the “EA spouse” incident, Electronic Arts has been hammered by the games media for using business practices that harm competition, mistreat employees, and abuse the rights of gamers. While some of the criticism may have been in response to “hard core” gamers becoming disgruntled with EA’s use of the successful but unpopular “free to play” business model, many of the complaints (and lawsuits) undoubtedly stem from an executive leadership that sometimes puts profits ahead of care for employees and customers.
Headquarters: Cary, North Carolina, USA
Company type: Developer, publisher, game engine vendor
Most famous games: Fortnite, Unreal, Gears of War, Infinity Blade, Unreal Engine
Job openings: https://epicgames.wd5.myworkdayjobs.com/en-US/Epic_Games
Epic was founded in 1991 by Tim Sweeney, who still runs the company decades later as CEO. Originally, Epic was solely a developer of PC and console games. But today, they operate game studios internationally, and develop and sell what is arguably the most popular game engine in the world: Unreal Engine.
Is it a good place to work? According to Glassdoor, only 60% of employees would recommend Epic to a friend. While some anonymous employees call it the “Best company I ever worked for” and “Challenging, but fulfilling and lucrative” with above-average pay and quarterly bonuses, others aren’t as flattering. One employee hints at excessive overtime, saying “it may be a fine place to work if you’re single and have no desire for an outside-of-work life.” The polarized opinions might be explained by another employee, who summed it up by saying, “It’s a cult, so you’ll love it or hate it.”
Do they care? For a company with over 1,000 employees worldwide, Epic Games has not received any awards for being a great place to work. But for those who are passionate to work on industry-leading games and technology, the daily workplace challenges might be worth it.
To find and apply for jobs at Epic Games, read Epic Games Careers.
Headquarters: New York City, New York, USA
Company type: Developer, publisher
Most famous games: BioShock, Borderlands, Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead, NBA 2K
Job openings: https://careers.take2games.com
Take-Two was formed in 1993, with the intention to become a major video game publisher. That might seem like an audacious goal for a tiny startup, but they must have done something right — they went public just a few years later in 1997, and have since acquired many successful game studios including Rockstar Games, 2K, and others.
Is it a good place to work? According to Glassdoor, a whopping 87% of employees would recommend Take-Two to a friend. Positive employee reviews mention that Take-Two is a “Great place to start [your] career,” and that “upward mobility poses new possibilities” for career growth. Less positive reviews indicate “Grueling hours and no respect for work-life balance,” and that “being laid off is common.”
Do they care? In the early 2000s, Take-Two’s leadership was the target of a fraud investigation by the Securities and Exchange commission, resulting in Take-Two and executives paying fines of over USD $13 million. Regarding corporate giving, one employee wrote on Glassdoor, “The company does not care about charities, no special programs for volunteering and donations.”
Headquarters: Bellevue, Washington, USA
Company type: Developer
Most famous games: Halo, Destiny
Job openings: https://careers.bungie.com/
Founded in 1991, Bungie achieved early success developing 3D games for Macintosh computers. They were acquired by Microsoft in 2000 to finish and launch Halo, a new franchise for Xbox, but later left Microsoft in 2007 and returned to their roots as an independent developer.
Is it a good place to work? According to Glassdoor, 72% of Bungie employees would recommend it to a friend. Anonymous employee reviews say the company “cares deeply for employees,” and that it’s an “Excellent culture with career growth in mind.” However, recent reviews call for leadership to improve, saying “crunch has become a regular occurrence again,” and that the work-life balance “can be awful at times depending where the current development of the game is currently at.”
Do they care? Bungie has worked to help victims of natural disasters including Hurricane Katrina and the 2010 Haiti earthquake, by selling special T-shirts and donating the proceeds to the Red Cross. Bungie also runs a nonprofit organization, the Bungie Foundation, using therapeutic entertainment to help hospitalized children.