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Crushing the Dream of Working at Wizards of the Coast

Most Magic players have entertained the idea of working at Wizards of the Coast at one point or another. I mean, making a career of designing one of greatest games ever created? Who wouldn’t consider such a thing to be insanely attractive? (Terrorists: that’s who.)

That’s why it makes me sad to report that working at Wizards may not be all sunshine and roses. I mean, this may not be enough to completely kill your desire to make Magic cards, but Glassdoor—a site where employees and former employees anonymously review their employers—indicates that WOTC is perhaps not the greatest place to work.

wotcglassdoor

Oof, only 2.5 stars? That’s a failing grade in schools that don’t coddle their students. Let’s see what employees have had to say about different aspects of working at the company (all quotes are SIC).

Technology/IT

As a disappointed MTGO player (is there any other kind?), one thing that interests me most is what internal employees have to say about the technology utilized and marketed by the company.

IT is old and out of date.

Upper IT leadership is lost and threatened by new ideas and talent. They make sure those people are diminished until they leave or find a way to get rid of them.

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.

Magic Online Business team leadership is unqualified

Architecture actively works to keep projects from being successful. Their assumptions are not based on fact, rather on outdated poorly understood interpretation of how modern technology works.

Completely incompetent at implementing any kind of digital media. I was tossed into a web design team even though I had no experience in and was not hired for coding. Had to deal with contracted web app companies that could not care less. I was placed almost exclusively in teams that had little to do with the job I’d been hired to perform.

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.

People in the Technology org are making their entire careers on software that is over budget and behind schedule.

Technology teams frequently underdeliver but are chronically understaffed and can’t source talent because salaries are so far below market.

Lack of Innovation/Diversity

As a creative type, I like to think working at Wizards would give me the opportunity to innovate and do something new. But word is that this isn’t really looked kindly upon at WOTC.

2 trick pony. Magic and D&D. If it isn’t named that it’s not going to fly. Don’t get your hopes up about a new game you made. Even if they like it, and say they want to do it, it won’t get published. But they will own your idea from then on.

Zero commitment to innovate and “risk” upsetting Magic. Any time someone questions ANYTHING, rather than owning mistakes and committing to get better as a group, people retreat to defensive positions and lash out, especially the bottom of the barrel people who are lucky to have jobs at all – the rejects from other companies that will actually take the well-below-market salaries WotC pays.

In my experience, if you are honest, work hard and come up with innovation ideas, you are punished with more work, leaders stealing your ideas, and moved to positions where you’re no longer doing what you were hired to do.

Wizards seems to want only want employees who think and look like them; diversity is a talking point not part of Wizards culture.

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.

New ideas are not encouraged. For a company that lives and dies by its IPs, they are remarkably resistant towards encouraging innovation or new products.

Invisible management who have their heads in the sand and are afraid to innovate or take risks. Management’s attitude is to coast and just not mess a good thing up.

If you have a will or wanting to create or work on something big, this isn’t the place. The business doesn’t act like it wants to succeed and won’t even properly fund it’s biggest money makers.

Opportunities for creative projects on the side are stymied by a draconian non-compete policy.

We kill a lot of good game ideas before they are able to reach the market. It makes me wonder what might have been.

Advancement in the Company

If you’re an overachiever type, Wizards may not be the place for you.

Very hard to advance from one position to the next. Once you are in a particular role, you may need to leave the company to try new opportunities.

Very low chance to advance, you will be told you can, but what you need to do changes all the time so you will not succeed at it.

No upward mobility. But if you’re basing your career at this company, you’ve got bigger problems.

Hardworking, smart, talented people move on to other companies, leaving behind the people who either can’t get a job anywhere else or are too lazy or depressed to try. There are a few exceptions, of course, but HR will see to it that they don’t stay around too long. They’ll have them apply for “consideration” of a title change or pay increase, withholding all assistance during that process – even for individuals worth retaining – ensuring that the success rate stays somewhere below 3%.

Career development is extremely difficult

People who do less work but more talk usually get promoted. That’s because there’s no accountability or task monitoring. If you’re a PM who does nothing, this is a job for you!

Slow/ no promotion track.

No room for growth without being part of an executive manager’s inner circle.

Lack of career advancement opportunities, favoritism from senior management towards “friends” when promoting employees, the cultural environment is that of gamers so if you aren’t a herd core gamer you may find it difficult to breach the political favoritism entrenched within the company.

There is no room for advancement. Someone has to retire or die before you get promoted above manager, and even then they will probably bring in someone from outside.

Compensation

Do you like to be paid a fair market rate for your work? Wizards employees suggest going elsewhere may be your best bet:

Health benefits are awful, with massive out-of-pocket costs

Wages are some of the worst in the industry. What this means in real life is that often the first, second, and third choices for Director or upper level management positions walk away from the job. The individual hired often works for 35-40% below the Seattle market, has little actual experience in the gaming industry or in any complex IT environment, and often lacks the management or personnel skills needed to address the most egregious issues.

Stagnant salaray – raises or increases in salary very very rare.

compensation is very east coast and way below industry standards

Pay scale is well below market.

Lower-than-market salaries often makes this place a stepping stone to other companies that care more about their talent.

Financial success not shared with rank-and-file employees or reflected in office environment, which is tightly packed, “Office Space” style cubicles; Yearly raises are nearly nonexistent

Salaries are generally 20% lower than at comparable companies and opportunities for advancement are sporadic.

Horrible raises and have lower than average salaries.

The salaries are too low for the people they need.

Management

I’ve had great jobs ruined by horrible bosses and horrible jobs made downright pleasant by great bosses. What is the Wizards company culture like?

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more poorly managed company

Better make friends. Managers and above will become petty and retaliatory if they don’t like you

Management ready to throw anyone under the bus to avoid their own inability to motivate and be a part of the team.

R&D designs great paper Magic, but is not poised with the talent to design in the digital world.

Poor management.

By the time I left, it appeared that anyone who was brave enough to challenge the CEO and was willing to take a stand for their employees had been replaced by people who must be terrified of losing their jobs. That’s the only way I can explain how most of the employees can be treated so poorly by their Senior leaders.

Too many chiefs, not enough Indians.

Some senior management are difficult to work for and some key teams are understaffed and under-resourced.

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.

Anyone above you in the hierarchy knows how to maneuver through corporate politics, appeasing those above and encouraging those below, while letting blame slip past when it comes time to fire someone. I saw people maneuvered into positions of blame to excuse their firings more than once, and one truly awful case of firing someone for false cause.

There’s not a manager there who knows what they’re doing

More managers than actual individual contributors. This sounds cynical. This is true, however.

Poor managers drive away talented individuals, and don’t recognize good or hard work. Incompetency is often rewarded with promotion.

Constant poor decisions from upper management will drive you insane.

Middle Management can sometimes be brought in with little understanding about the products they work on and a lack of desire to learn.

There are more managers and bosses than actual workers, which causes for the little people (workers) to be buried in work and are taken for granted.

Epic Rants

Finally, here is what I found to be the most telling review.

If you want a job where you don’t have to work that lets you spend most of the day on Facebook, Reddit or whatever website you want, look no further. Your performance will be measured against a handful of silly goals that you set for yourself. Wizards is ideal for people who just want to stall out career-wise. There is no reward for hard work, so don’t bother trying to get your job satisfaction out of making meaningful contributions. Instead, take advantage of the perks you’ll find at Wizards that you won’t find at any other employer on the planet that actually makes money: take two- to three-hour lunches, two to three times a week… conduct all of your personal business during working hours… “work” from home to care for a sick child… book a conference room on the third floor for a few hours and catch up on Netflix… find a way to use FMLA and take a couple of months off of work entirely… set up a MTGO trading side job to make money from stuff you never paid for!

The good news is that you’ll never be fired because Hasbro’s HR and risk management staff is so afraid of getting sued for wrongful termination that you’d basically have to be caught stealing Magic cards to get fired, and not know the right people who can help you cover up a situation like that.

This was listed under “pros.”

baneofprogress

I don’t know if seeing all of this would make me turn down an opportunity to work at Wizards if such a thing ever came up (and because I write articles like this, it probably won’t). I admit, I cherry-picked the bad stuff here, and there were plenty of good comments (although, notably, there were no overwhelmingly good comments. As a rule, employees listed more cons than pros in their reviews). Making Magic cards and being part of a growing company is a huge benefit, and let’s be honest: most jobs have aspects you don’t like. Did you really expect Wizards to be any different?

Still, if you’ve dreamed your whole life to work for this company and see reviews like this, it’s got to sting a little bit. What do you find most interesting about these employee comments?

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Danny Brown

Danny Brown

Danny is a Cube enthusiast and the Director of Content for Quiet Speculation.

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16 thoughts on “Crushing the Dream of Working at Wizards of the Coast

  1. Very telling. I think many players have started to realize that innovation in magic comes from the community, not from Wizards itself. What powers a community like this is the expectation of what Magic could be, and what separates this from online gaming is the ability to actually turn these expectations into reality on our own. One more reason to never invest in MTGO.

  2. That’s so sad. I’ve entertained the idea of trying to get a job at Wizards, but as time went on, I developed a career in the real world. It sounds like it was a damn good thing I never even tried to get into Magic R&D.

    But even if working at Wizards in a nightmarish Dilbert-opia, we still have a super sweet paper card game we can play and talk about.

  3. Aside from the game itself it is unbelievable to see/hear that from a business perspective.

    Don’t you want to fire all these inefficient managers/leaders/employees and make better profit with a business that has tremendous potential?

    1. No because the parent company is hands off… And why fire people unless it is to replace them with your friends. For instance Randy Buehler who lost them literally millions still being a independent contractor with the company. As long as WOTC is profitable Hasbro doesn’t step in, as long as they don’t step in no one need know the insane amount of nepotism that goes on at WOTC.

  4. Such a company is going to destroy itself eventually.They have a great position on the market. To keep it that way, they need further innovation. If not, other companies will do and they will lose their share.

    I may not be a fan of blizzard, but heartstone is proving that they know the concept I explained above and they are investing in that. MTGO may still be more popular than heartstone. The market shift will grow slowly.

    PS: I work in a company that is focussing on that innovation aspect, with a lot of positive effect. We are growing year after yeaf above our own expectations. We stay ahead of the other companies in area’s where we are market leader, because of further innovation. And in products were we are no market leader, we are growing because we invest more in innovation.

    I’m surprised WOTC is not following this road. Certainly because blizzard is openly showing them how it needs to be done.

  5. My Brother worked for WOTC(IT Dept) right at the time Hasbro purchased MTG/DD and has repeatedly mirrored the above sentiments…He left wotc shortly thereafter and is still wounded from his experience to the day. One of his best friends was in ‘upper management until recently (worked there since 93)..has way too many tales of ‘back in the day Garfieldism’s…he finally had enough of it all, cashed in some of his stocks and now lives on a vineyard and has a winery…

  6. Just for comparison sake, here are some toy makers, game devs/pubs and TCG companies on Glassdoor (number of reviews in parentheses)

    Hasbro: 3.5 (141)
    Mattel: 3.2 (268)
    Lego: 3.6 (77)
    Blizzard: 4.0 (234)
    Konami (makers of Yugioh): 2.8 (24)
    THQ: 3.1 (76)

  7. no coincidence that Blizzard has the highest score. This can correlate with the innovation aspect of their strategy.
    According to scientific research, employees are more motivated in a company that stimulates innovation.

    Time for reorganisation in Hasbro I think. It sounds like so many young enthousiastics lose their spirit because of the demotivating structure and strategy.

    reading these stories make me so happy to be where I work now! I hope the enthousiastics don’t give up and find a better place where they have the right atmosphere to be innovative.

  8. I agree with all these points.

    I always knew that there was something fishy about that company and its people. I heard many great and terrible things that they have done. But I never thought they would be this rotten.

    This is just proof that what BS said about the current management under Hasbro to be true than false.

    Perhaps what they did at Fort Mason a while back is perhaps true from what I am reading here.

  9. I have to wonder how many complained about Wizards simply because they lost their job. Seriously, consider it for a second. Probably a good number of complaints are true and warranted, but do you wonder how many people complain from being terminated for doing a poor job? The people who suck at work and feel entitled to great places, complaining when their toe gets stepped on.

    As an experienced worker in plenty of shitty jobs, this is nothing new. It’s called business. The ecology of this work space seem more hellish because you have constant interaction from those higher. People not used to that, will indeed bail. But you may fail to understand that this happens in *any* company. A lot. Many try to limit how much it happens, but it will indeed always happen. You’re always exposed to it, but if you dont have much 1-on-1 with management, you’re not going to notice as much.

    Being in a claustrophobic, squished together area with others in mostly isolation, where most interaction comes from those higher than you, yeah, will feel overwhelming. The job that did this to me the most was being in a phone service job for MarketingAlternatives when ObamaCare was on the rise. Smoke breaks, lunchs, people talk. Other times, you’re 100% on your job and nothing else. Trying to exceed expectations usually got you in trouble. Usually not because it’s good, it’s also because you’re being counter-productive. And this is, ultimately, just on the *phone*.

    Think about heavy hitting jobs like, creating video-games. You know most of you wouldn’t want to do that because of the SEVERE expectations and time-clocks. Trust me. People do appreciate you going-above-and-beyond. But it’s a *balance*. A very delicate one. You take too much time being a kiss-ass or taking on extra tasks, etc, you are actually harming productivity for the company, in the numbers and numbers don’t lie.

    It is better to a hamster on a wheel with these companies. If you need special fullfillment (not saying that’s bad, that’s awesome, go for it) or some semblance of enjoying your job to stay there, you will never make it in those jobs. That’s not where you should be. Do something better unless you don’t care about it.

    1. True. People are more likely to focus on the bad parts of their life (like being fired) than the good aspects. Thus more people would make reviews on things that they don’t like.

  10. You work for a company you say, I’m looking to put out a new trading card game system that WOTC should have done long ago. At this point I can alter it slightly to make it my own, if you have a better place for me to go to, contact me.

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