Types of gaming companies you can work for

When hunting for a game testing job, you have to understand the type of companies you’re dealing with because it will impact greatly you experience at work. There are four main types of companies:

Gaming system constructors

 

Constructors are also referred to as First Parties: Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, Apple… They all have their word to say regarding games made available on their platforms. Ever heard about certification process? The constructors need to make sure the games meet their quality standards and that’s the job of their testers. 
Don’t expect to be giving any feedback on the gameplay though. You’re more likely to work with a checklist of very specific points to verify.PS4

Few video game tester jobs are available at those companies compared to the rest of the industry. The competition is quite high.

Constructors can also own game development studio and act as publishers. Insuch scenario the game testing positions are pretty much the same as those described in the two following sections, except a the prestige of working for a big name.

Game developers (studios)

3d storm trooper helmet

Being employed by a game development studio generally means that you get to work on the same location as the developers. You will get to interact directly with them which make the job easier and more enjoyable.

As mentioned before, the main role of a game tester is to find defects rather than giving feedback on gameplay but a game development studio is the type of company that is more likely to encourage such feedback.

Not all studio developments employ game testers. In smaller companies the developers may test themselves. Others will rely on the QA team of the publisher. Overall this is not the easiest place for job hunting, but the probably the best place to work at as a game tester.

Example of famous game developers: Bioware, Rockstar, Ubisoft.

Publishers

Those companies publish video games created by others. They’re responsible for manufacturing and marketing the games.

While being employed by a publisher you might work on games from different studios which is nice. However it can be harder to feel really involved in the projects as the only interaction you will have with the developers are the defects you submit and the comments they add to them. Being farther from the development front lines makes the job less stimulating.

On a positive note, publishers typically have important QA teams and it’s way easier to find a job there than at a development studio.

Test labs and outsourced testing

Test labs are companies specialized in game testing. They provide outsourced testing services to game developers or publishers. It means than working there you would be as far as possible from where the game actually gets created. Clearly not the most exciting environment. On the other hand you get to test more varied games because those labs tend to offer testing services on a lot of platforms for a lot of clients.

The job security tends to be lower than in other types of companies because the work load depends heavily on the contracts that the lab can get from developers/publishers. Just like testers are at the end of the food chain within a company, test labs are at the end of the food chain in the industry. So when hard times come and it’s time to cut costs, game developers and publishers will first look at those contracts they have with test labs even before laying off their own testers. And test labs usually employ their own testers on a temporal basis to make sure they can let them go when the cash is not getting in.

Last bad point about test labs: career progression is even more limited than elsewhere. When it comes to hiring the test labs usually consider quantity over quality. They will hire the cheapest and less experienced workers which often translates into a work place where people are bored and feel like they could be replaced at anytime. 
One good thing about test labs though: they’re the easiest point of entry in the video games industry.

Not that simple

As you can see, the best positions are typically with the game development studios and the less interesting ones with the testing labs. The publishers are somewhere in between. But wait it’s not that simple.

First: Some companies fall in multiple categories. Look at Bethesda: they are actually two companies. The original one, Bethesda Softworks started in the 1980’s and used to be a game developer as well as its own publisher. But in 2001 they founded Bethesda Game Studio to be in charge game development and let Bethesda Softworks focus on publishing. Bethesda Softworks is now even publishing games from other studios.

Second: Size matters. If you were to work in a team of two testers for a small independent game studio you would have a completely different experience then if you were working in a QA team of 40 for a big name studio. It’s easier to feel involved and committed in a small company. And sometimes it’s also easier to negotiate a salary because the employer cannot just say “no you will be paid like the 39 other testers”. 
Still, some people will feel more comfortable working for a bigger company. It’s really a matter of taste.

To sum up: Be aware that the size and type of company can greatly impact your experience as a game tester. Consider those factors when job hunting but never assume anything. The job interview is the time to ask your prospective employer details about the role and to get a better idea of how things really work in a company.

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3 Responses to Types of gaming companies you can work for

  1. Luke says:

    Thanks for the article. I have only a couple questions. I have a phone interview coming up for a game QA tester position, and if I pass that, then an on-site interview in the company. I know it sounds like I’m trying to cheat, but I’m really not — I am really starting to worry about this, losing sleep and gaining stress. I just want to hear your experiences/opinions on what the phone interview will consist of, and what the onsite interview will test me on. From what I’ve gathered, phone interview is a means of gathering more information about the resume and the cover letter. Job history, hypothetical questions, questions regarding your personality. Whereas the on-site interview’s about the technical knowledge that is required to be a tester.

    Thanks

    • Undercover Tester says:

      Hi Luke,

      Per my experience what you say is accurate:
      -phone screening should be quite straightforward questions to get an idea of who you are and what you’ve done before. Know your CV well
      -the on site interview will allow the company to know you better and test your technical skills

      The best advice I can think of:
      1- Practice presenting yourself in a way that emphasizes qualities that you do have and that match the job requirements
      2- Know your Resume and Cover Letter very well
      3- Relax – Remember that at a job interview, both parties are there to find out whether they could work together.

      It’s hard to give more specific advice.
      You might get presented with a test about finding bugs.
      At some point I would myself interview candidates and have them perform such test. I then reviewed not only which bugs they had found, but how clearly they reported them.

      If you don’t know how to report bugs, I suggest you research it a bit.
      There some basic sections:
      1- Description: A clear, yet short description of the bug
      2- Actual behavior: That’s the bug
      3- Expected behavior: That’s how it should behave normally. You don’t always have this information, especially in video game testing. Either you have a document stating clearly how it should behave, or you don’t and then you can include a description of ho you think it should behave.
      4- Steps to reproduce: A set of numbered steps to reproduce the bugs easily (pretend the person reading them doesn’t know the game at all)
      5- Severity: Minor, major, etc. Or whatever the scale the company uses

      Like I said, a bug report should be 100% clear. As a recruiter, I was fine with candidates missing non obvious bugs as long as the one they had found were well reported.

      But again: relax.
      By going through this interview, you will improve at interviewing regardless of the outcome.

  2. Alfred Gochanour says:

    I would like to be a game tester Thank You

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