Monday, November 22, 2004

Puzzles in behavior: why would anyone work for Electronic Arts?

The New York Times > Business > Your Money > Digital Domain: When a Video Game Stops Being Fun
For around $60,000 a year in an area with a high cost of living, he had been set to work on a six-day-a-week schedule. On weekdays, his team worked from 9 to 10 (that is, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.), and on Saturdays, a half-day (that means 9 to 6). Then Sundays were added - noon to 8 or 10 p.m. The weekly total was 82 to 84 hours.

By tradition, Silicon Valley employers have always offered their bleary-eyed employees lottery tickets in the form of stock options. E.A.'s option grants, however, offer little chance of a Google-like bonanza. An employee who started today with an options package like that of the E.A. worker just described (and who stayed with the company the four years required to fully vest) would get $120,000, for example, if the share price quadrupled - and proportionally less for more modest increases. The odds of a skyrocketing stock grew much longer this month, when the company said competition had forced it to cut prices on core sports titles.

Surgical residents work those kinds of hours, but typically only for a few years. The pay is less, but there's a clear goal in mind. Not a few of them enjoy that life, which has a certain simplicity to it.

Why do these engineers stay with these jobs? That's the real mystery.

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