Thursday, September 6, 2012

Don't Review Sega's Games, Review SEGA Themselves

Well guys, I was at work doing stuff when I found this semi-interesting Kotaku article.  I doubt they came up with it themselves and just copied it from elsewhere (like I am right now).  NEVERTHELESS, it's about Glassdoor, a website in which past & present employees of companies leave anonymous review of their employers (you need some proof of employment before you can submit anything).  And that's what this Kotaku article does--it shows you the ratings for famous game development studios (according to anonymous people so take 'em with a grain of salt).  Hey I do this stuff for a career so these numbers actually have meaning to me.  If you want to look at the raw numbers, I sorted them out for you as such from best to worst.  Scores are an average out of 5.  Also included the number of votes so you can get an idea of the sample size:

Valve: 5.0   (2 reviews, looks like Valve can't even get 3 good reviews, HL3 DECONFIRMED)
Riot Games: 4.4   (30)
BioWare: 3.8   (27)
Microsoft: 3.5   (3659, very tricky because this includes ALL of Microsoft, not just Xbox/games)
EA (all studios): 3.3   (342)
Ubisoft: 3.3   (92)
Blizzard: 3.3   (69)
Nintendo of America: 3.3   (26)
Rockstar Games: 3.3   (6)
PopCap: 3.2   (8)
Zynga: 3.1   (85)
Square-Enix (in the West): 3.1   (9)
LucasArts: 3.0   (13)
CCP: 2.9   (28)
THQ: 2.9   (36)
Activision: 2.8   (40)
Sony Computer Entertainment America: 2.8   (64)
Gameloft: 2.7   (59)
Crytek: 2.6   (12)
Sony Online Entertainment: 2.5 (38)
Codemasters: 2.5 (12)
NCSoft: 2.3 (27)
Capcom Vancouver: 2.3   (3)
Treyarch: 2.2   (12)
Timegate: 1.9   (14)
Volition: 1.3   (4)

So you know what I did?  Seeing as I love to be disappointed (we're Sega fans, after all), I decided to look up Sega's Glassdoor page.  And here it is.  This is based on the incredibly fantastic Sega of America studio (which I talked about here) in San Francisco, CA and here's my fancy formatting to make this as easy as possible to read:


Picture of Sayyyyyguuhhhhh of America:


2.5 out of 5 (average)

Employees say it's “OK” (12 ratings)

20% of employees recommend this company to a friend

50% Approve of the CEO (4 ratings)
Mike "18-24 Dreamcast Ports" Hayes

Company Rating Distribution (of the 12 people):

Very Satisfied – 1
Satisfied – 3
Neutral / OK – 1
Dissatisfied – 3
Very Dissatisfied – 4

Additional Employee Ratings (out of 5):

Career Opportunities – 3
Compensation & Benefits – 3.5
Work/Life Balance – 4
Senior Leadership – 2
Culture & Values – 2

User Reviews, please mind the dates on which these were posted:

Very strict corporate enviornment (3 of 5)
Former Employee – posted May 17, 2012 

Pros – Great benefits, competative salary, good location.

Cons – Poor performance on new and existing game titles. Reputation as a hole has been dropping like a rock. Many people do not even know they still exist.

Advice to Senior Management – I think you should make the corporate enviornment a bit more fun and work hard play hard. The corporate atmosphere is more like a work hard only strict enviornment. It may be the cultural differences with Japanese culture vs American culture which contribute to this.

Going nowhere...slowly. (2 of 5)
Former Employee – posted today (Sep 6, 2012)

Pros – Benefits, Good colleagues and great team. Was great and very exciting at the time of the 2005 reset...but...

Cons – ...the reset ran out of steam and the products didn't sell. Some didn't sell because they weren't any good and that wasn't addressed by many people involved, but there were plenty of products that were good too. While the market does play a role in this I have to say that it's not fully to blame. Most problem products weren't righted and the organization in general just didn't collectively have its stuff together to change that. It wasn't for lack of good people or even processes, it largely appears that the output from such things was ignored or people even covered problems up fearing their own failures would see them out the door.

The big downside of working at Sega America is of course having to work with Sega of Japan and Sega Europe, in particular having to work under the management from SOE over the last several years...which let's face it, hasn't worked out and on reflection appears to have not been a good idea. Yes, I'm biased...but it's also true isn't it?

There are some great people within those overseas places yes, but there are also many failures, politicians and ineffective managers (managers, directors and VP's) too. SOJ typically falls in line with what you'd expect of any Japanese company, essentially an organization that looks down on anyone who is not Japanese. Racism. There, I said it.

As for SOE. The management (particularly that which has been managing or overseeing the entire Sega West business) has run the entire thing into the ground. A lot of those same people appear to have been doing nothing but empire building for themselves and instead of trying to make the business work have been securing themselves.

Better people were ousted unnecessarily in order to pave the way for such empire building. I'm happy for the recent change of guard at Sega West, but it hasn't really gone far enough and we needed more directors, leadership and decision making back at SOA if only to curb the lack of insightful direction, decision making and interfering from overseas. Why? Those involved just didn't understand the problems from afar, thus couldn't fix them.

Ultimately it's been difficult to get any products, business or other efforts off of the ground because of the stalemate and lack of decision making in place and we lost so many good people because of that. There's a lot of reason to not work there nowadays. It's a good gig to have if you don't have anything else going on of course, but that's as far as I'd recommend working there.

Advice to Senior Management – Make some decisions. Grow the business, but don't fear cancelling products that are not meeting expectations, it will at least allow you to double down on the winners. Put some local leadership in place to represent SOA and sever this ridiculous leash that SOE has. It hasn't worked out so change it.

Sonic (5 of 5)
Former Employee – posted Apr 18, 2012 

Pros – great people, fun industry, great brand.

Cons – limited communication, could use more colaboration.

was warned it is dysfunctional, turned out to be correct (2 of 5)
Former Employee – posted Mar 12, 2012 

Pros – fun atmosphere.  cool products.  good research department.  they encourage creativity

Cons – infighting among mid/upper management created underlying animosity between groups.  many decisions are made for internal political reasons rather than good business reasons.

Advice to Senior Management – try a 360 degree review process to weed out, or at lease identify, the weak mid/upper managers.  do something to get the groups to work together instead of working against one another.

Revolving door of terrible managers (1 of 5)
Current Employee – posted May 12, 2011 

Pros – Big brand name, iconic IP, nice office,

Cons – Business down 60% since 2007, Americans treated as 3rd class, Europeans treated as 2nd class. Politics rewarded over merit.

Advice to Senior Management – Top execs in Europe and Japan keep getting promoted while Americans get fired and treated badly. The wrong people are getting promoted

Okay place to work, but difficult to get decisions made (4 of 5)
Current Employee – posted Feb 22, 2011 

Pros – Start-up like mentality when i was there.  Ability to wear lots of different hats.

Cons – Management in Japan made it difficult to make decisions for the US market.

Generally good but needs revolution in quality (4 of 5)
Current Employee – posted Sep 04, 2008 

Pros – Co-workers are generally great folks at SEGA. It can be frustrating working for a Japanese company due to communication and culture issues, but the US office continues to show success in growing a Western-centric videogame development strategy.

Cons – No stock or profitsharing mean that there is really no hope of hitting a jackpot even if you make a hit game. There is no incentive to pitch original projects since SEGA will not give up any financial reward to an internal entrepreneur.

Advice to Senior Management – Get off the zero-sum business plan and spread more bets so projects can live and die on quality. Amazing games will reap rewards in the market and restore the tarnished SEGA brand.

Good benefits and people, but poor management and consistently bad development track record. (1 of 5)
Former Employee – posted Sep 23, 2008 

Pros – Sega has great properties. The benefits are very good. Some great people on staff. Lots of young employees in their 20s and 30s.

Cons – Poor track record of developing quality games. Game quality is consistently subpar. Little oversight of bad employees. Dysfunctional relationships with other business units creates lots of friction in daily work and long-term planning. Leadership is not consistent in its decision making regarding personnel with good employees fired and promoted and bad employees promoted and fired. Lack of healthy questioning of process and decisions.

Advice to Senior Management – Listen to the people at the bottom. They have an honest and more truthful assessment of the situation than those on top. Don't be afraid of doing the right thing. Support your people. They need guidance.

Great family at SEGA (4 of 5)
Current Employee – posted 5 weeks ago (about Aug 1, 2012)

Pros – People are really awesome and helpful.  Work hours can be super flexible.  Great friendly environment and work space.

Cons – Previous management from Europe was awful.  Lots of Europe vs US fighting.

Political- a collection of departments, the whole often adds up to less than the sum of the parts. (1 of 5)
Current Employee – posted Jun 20, 2011 

Pros – SEGA was one of the industry's greats and the brand still has some residual value- if nothing else it looks good on the resume to non-industry folk.  Opportunity to cover lost of ground quit quickly due to small size of company.  Nice office and decent location.

Cons – Generally poor product and poor attitude to product makes.  Having the US team report to the European office as a territory is just... weird.  A little slow on trends like DLC, mobile and casual gaming.  Horribly understaffed.
Former Employee – posted Aug 21, 2010 

Pros – Good Work Environment.  Free Soda.  Working in the video game industry.

Cons – Very difficult to move up in the organization.  Lack of clear vision from top of the organization.  Difficult to move up.

Advice to Senior Management – Value all members of the organization from top to bottom.

Stay away. (1 of 5)
Former Employee – posted Mar 31, 2010

Pros  – The company has some of the best benefits anywhere (time off, medical, etc.) That is pretty much the only highlight.

Cons – Typical Japanese company...micromanagement from afar, a disconnect between the Japanese staff/managers and everyone else. The company is quite cheap in terms of making investments.

Advice to Senior Management – Start treating employees better. Invest in the business. Do not give the impression that non-Japanese nationals are second class citizens.


If you need any encouragement, there's Sega of Japan with 4 reviews with a 3.2 average.  There's hardly anything interesting written there so I'd say just discard this page altogether.  EDIT: There's also nothing on Sumo Digital so don't bother.

But there you go.  Twelve samples from people with varying English composition skills.  That's not a huge sample size but still, that's more than a handful of people.  Some of it is good but most of it isn't.  Sega is slightly below average compared to the companies on that big Kotaku list.  Also consider that the only 5/5 review happens to be the most useless so factor that into the average.

It's a bummer but I'm not too surprised.  Like I said, these reviews could be fabricated/embellished in some way so we don't know.  Some of the stuff seems blatantly obvious like the poor games, poor mismanagement, disconnect from Sega of Japan (hey, if SoA wants to make crap Marvel games, they ain't developing any more games in the near future).  I'm devoid of thoughts right now so you analyze it for me.

If you want to read more from some anonymous Sega employee, I say check out this guy's blog.  It's seldom updated but he mentions some very interesting stuff including the time in which they tried to "kill off" Sonic and the antics that ensued.  Can't leave comments since he disabled them.

Whatever, the more you know.  Hopefully this is not vindictive of how Sega of Japan/Europe operates because SoA has been garbage for years.  Daytona USA & blue skies seem so far away from here, FML.


  1. I can't say I'm surprised by this either, and as much as I'd hate to say it, the racist allegations as well. From what I've seen, a lot of this really is because of Sega of Japan operates.

    I think I first got an idea for this when the voice cast for the early Sonic 3D games was fired and replaced by the 4Kids actors who did the English Sonic X dub. From what I read, the decision came from Japan, since the Japanese cast did the games and cartoon, but that's to be expected with how the Japanese voice acting industry works. I guess they wanted it the voice actors from the show and game to be same for the English version as well, and Sega of America had their hands tied in the matter. Whether one preferred those older voices or newer ones, it's not fun to be on the receiving end of the stick on that one.

    Speaking of the matter, I read at TSSZ that when the cast was being replaced again around Sonic Free Riders and Colors, Sega was considering recasting Sonic's old voice actor, Ryan Drummond. The guy never wanted to leave the role in the first place, and always made it evident that if the offer came he'd return to the role in a heartbeat. Seems like a passionate guy. He re-auditioned and was told by Sega that he got the job and they were glad to have him back. And a lot of fans (myself included, though I'm not fanatical about it), really wanted this. I know a lot of people criticize his acting, but when it comes to voice acting, a lot of things aren't taken into consideration such as timing (saying a certain phrase in exactly a certain amount of seconds - some phrases taken 5 seconds to say in Japanese and 2 in English, or vice versa), voice direction, the script, and its translation. Some things also don't make sense unless you're from Japan. Things you learn from anime.

    But when the paperwork came, Drummond was informed that he had to leave his union and much of his work would come with no compensation. The Sega execs from Japan met with his union, and for how much money was spent for those meetings (airfare, food, hotels), it would've covered Drummond voicing 16 games. And he was refused. Despite how unions are abused nowadays, pretty sure this is exactly the reason they exist. I hear that Sonic's current actor, Roger Craig Smith, gets pitiful pay for his work as well.

    Reminds me of a similar story that when ASR was being developed, people were hoping to see two certain funky aliens from the Genesis/Mega Drive days. In case I need to spell it out for other readers, ToeJam & Earl =P. Just putting it out there: After hearing the demands from fans, the creator came out and told people that Sega had indeed gotten in contact with him to use the characters in the game. However, Sega wanted to use them without paying him a cent. No agreement could be reached, which is why they were absent from the game. If he was asking for a ton of money (how much Nintendo was asking to allow Mario and Luigi to appear in Wreck-It-Ralph), that'd be one thing. But no compensation? Can't blame him for that.

    Makes me wonder. Considering we think Sega of America has fallen from grace, I wonder if it's a result of Sega of Japan finally getting some kind of revenge. Sounds absurd, but here's my speculation: For years many of the Japanese higher ups hated the American branch because of Tom Kalinske. They hated what he did, especially in giving the Sega/Sonic/Genesis brand an "attitude", and that his efforts succeeded in giving Nintendo a competitor, something they failed to do themselves. From what I've heard, it seems like there was certainly a grudge from SOJ against SOA back then, but I wonder if it's been there all along. Now SOJ's back on top, so it seems. Just a thought, though. Even though you'd think relations had improved with ASRT's communications with the various IP holders, for all their efforts, the first game wasn't released in Japan, either.

  2. That's a very interesting story. I learned something new just now. Tom Kalinske's "edgy" Sega makes a lot of sense. Well, this is Sega we're talking about--nothing is easy for these guys. But yes, Japan is culturally different than America and we tend to forget this a lot.

    Speaking of this "racism," here's another thing to mention that we usually forget. It's that 70 years ago, Japan was an Imperialist nation that provoked war in the Pacific with neighboring nations, including America. The war is long over now and we're best of allies, I have nothing against the Japanese, we ran to their aid after the tsunami/quake, and we love Sega. But still, it's not surprising if there's this minority of Japanese population who still believes their actions in WW2 were "noble" and that they tend to look down on foreigners. I certainly hope this isn't the case and it sucks to bring up but since we're on this topic, it's hard not to think about it.

    Besides, Hajime Satomi, the head of the Yakuza, runs Sega, so anything can happen with this company. Ok, I don't know if he's really Yakuza but it's fun to pretend so we can blame him for all of Sega's troubles!

  3. Although I can't truly confirm this, I have heard claims that for a while, Japanese schools weren't teaching the reasons why the bombs were dropped, as if trying to erase Japanese imperialism and its own provocation from the history books. I might have to research the validity of that. That said, I've run into quite a bit of J-media depicting the horrors of the bombs above all else, which would certainly stir up some anti-American sentiment then (and even now). Fear of nuclear weapons was a big thing in that period, which was probably the largest influence on Hideo Kojima. I have seen some videos showcasing pictures of signs on doors saying "Japanese Only", I can only speculate it's something of sovereign pride as well. And they hated the XBox =P

    But in all seriousness, other countries have it and so do we, as much as everyone wants to pretend otherwise. I don't really see things from Japan embrace Japanese imperialism like we see some Americans with the Confederate Flag, but it might be there for all I know. I know the Yakuza claim to represent the Japan of old (though this could be more samurai than imperial), and is said to have played a tremendous part in rebuilding it after WWII.

    Of course, that's merely one side, and like you said, we aid them, helped them rebuild, and we often see the Japanese adopt and embrace Western trends and fashions. Although some things from there twist my stomach thinking about it, I wouldn't be who I am had I not been exposed to many things that came from the region. I love games and some anime. Parts of Japanese and Chinese cultures have played too large a role in my life, and this is coming from a Hispanic. And I've encountered many other Hispanics who are NOT happy with that.

    It sucks both ways, but it's everywhere and not going anywhere (odd choice of words). I'd still travel to parts of the world regardless of pre-existing notions that they already hate me for my nationality and race. People here hate me enough as it is. =P

  4. It's always been my opinion that the primary reason behind all of Sega's misfortune, then and now, has been lack of communication and understanding between SOA and SOJ.

    SOA was always the more progressive division. You can see it in their marketing, particularly with the Genesis and in the Dreamcast launch - but their influence went even deeper than that. When it came time to plan for the next generation, after the Genesis, SOA correctly anticipated the leap to 3D and proposed the necessary hardware. SOJ, as they always have, took a much more traditionalist approach, and ignored this. The result, as we know today, bombed everywhere outside of Japan.

    When SOA succeeded, SOJ put more roadblocks in their way. Honestly I don't understand why. It's too easy to say SOJ was jealous. When you're running a corporation, it shouldn't matter where the money is coming from. But then I think of the Sonic Xtreme saga, and how Yuji Naka nearly resigned because he was worried the Americans were using "his engine."

    In a global company, that sort of attitude will kill you. And that's exactly what happened.

  5. That's a good answer too. You know there's Sestren's story about the voice acting. Then there's the Sega Saturn: was good in Japan, bad in America. Dreamcast: good in America, bad in Japan. Binary Domain: good in Japan, bad in America (Sega's lack of advertising). There's more but there's such a lack of consistency across regions. Yeah, we have different tastes but Sega of Japan & America contrast too much.

    Also, about the Japanese nationalism, I don't think Sega is racist, they just think Sega of America sucks (and they do though that may be pot calling the kettle black). That's a good post too although I don't have much to add.

    Also, about the Japanese nationalism, I don't think Sega is racist, they just think Sega of America sucks (and they do though that may be pot calling the kettle black). That's a good post too although I don't have much to add. I'm just another Anglo-Saxon American man :D