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The last couple of weeks for Nintendo have not been good when it comes to public perception. It all started with an unnamed Nintendo employee who claims their right to unionize was violated. That was followed by Nintendo of America contractors who alleged mistreatment as well. Those reports have been followed up by IGN with a new piece that speaks to more current and former contractors who have taken issue with how Nintendo of America operates.

In the piece, one former contractor describes the culture in their NoA department as “stilted” and oddly formal. This included staffers making regular apologies for leaving 15 minutes early, among other things. This apologetic nature was something full-time Nintendo employees participated in as well. Furthermore, contractors supposedly had to “account for virtually every minute of their day on a timesheet,” which caused all sorts of employee paranoia about getting in trouble for stepping away.

Not surprisingly, employees are also worried about posting on social media, as they fear they’ll get fired for sharing any number of opinions or comments. Apparently even things like taking sick days led to multiple apologies, all over the fear of being severely reprimanded by higher-ups.

As we said, people are speaking out in the last few months, which goes against how quiet things have been years before. One longtime contractors states that the “mood is really tense,” in the offices, as everyone is wondering what Nintendo is going to do in reaction to these stories being shared. It’s clear that the deluge of comments isn’t going to stop, as IGN spoke to a dozen current and former full-time employees and contractors, all of which say Nintendo has become more heavy-handed and restrictive in recent years.

Another concern for contractors is the lack of upward movement. One contractors says that years ago, you could expect to move up the corporate ladder, so to speak. You could start on a lower run and work your way up. Nowadays, one former contractor says it seems like there’s no path forward in the company, as you’ll likely take on more work than you should, but there’s little hope for promotion along the way. This is backed by a source that says while Nintendo’s demand for localization writers and editors has doubled in the past 3 years, that area of the company has had no full-time hires in the same time period.

Obviously, this has led to quite a big amount of turnover for contractors. Another source spoke on the matter by sharing the following.

“It’s just like throwing bodies at things. It just seemed like the full-time staff was almost drowning all the time. They didn’t hire enough full-time people, so full-time people just ended up managing more and more contractors, getting more and more bogged down, and there was this bottleneck… That’s how contractors end up training each other, because the full-time staff is just buried.”

Nintendo released a statement on the original right to unionize complaint a few days after it was filed, but they’re yet to comment on the allegations shared thereafter. One person who was willing to comment on the matter was Reggie Fils-Aime, who shared the following.

“At this point I’m three years retired from Nintendo of America, and I can’t comment on what’s going on today within the company. What I can say is that while I was there, we routinely hired [contract employees] in as permanent employees. We did it repeatedly. And interestingly, if you look at a number of well-known personalities within Nintendo of America, a lot of them started as contract employees 10, 15, or 20 years ago. So it’s always been a positive part of the culture to recruit in the very best of the contract employees into the company. So I’ve read the same stories, this division between contract and full-time employee. All I can say is that is not at all the culture that I left as I retired from Nintendo.”

[Reggie Fils-Aimé]

There’s much more to read through in the IGN feature, with more personal accounts about Nintendo’s approach to contractors, how they handle full-time and contracted employees comingling, and plenty of other topics. Make sure to read the entire feature here.

Reggie also shared similar comments on this matter with Washington Post. You can see his full comments below.

“It struck me, this isn’t the Nintendo I left. While I was at Nintendo, we routinely had meetings at events where our associates, that’s how we referred to our contract employees, were invited. It’s just a small example. I was famous for doing bimonthly and quarterly lunches with employees. It was a basic sign-up, and associates were invited as much as full-time employees. I know I was able to achieve that, and certainly what’s being described does not seem like a healthy culture.

All of the things that are part of a job beyond salary, you need to look at all those elements and have a mentality of doing the right thing for your employees. I fundamentally do believe that if employees are being treated with respect and the work they do and the pay and benefits they receive are in balance, the need for unionization isn’t there.”

[Reggie Fils-Aimé]

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Comments (8)

Most Upvoted

changer1701

I laughed out loud at these complaints. The environment is oddly formal? It's a workplace, not a slumber party. You need to apologize for leaving early? That should be common sense. Accounting for all your time? Hello, they're paying you for this time. These people have obviously never worked in a factory setting or held any other type of blue collar job. Instead, they sound like children expecting the atmosphere of a tech startup in a TV sitcom. Nevermind that Nintendo is a Japanese company where things are just done differently. Might I suggest that if you have a problem when made to feel like you must apologize for leaving early that you, oh I don't know, FIND ANOTHER JOB.

It's dumb clickbait. 95% of "journalism" is simply that, someone somewhere trying to keep the outrage machine going by feeding people nonsense.

kuribo

5M ago

The IGN article is a bit holier-than-thou considering the pay barely minimum wage, if that, for freelancer work.
Kat herself has a tweet offering $20 for an entire article of work.

They also benefit hugely from crowd-sourcing their Guides/Wiki sections and people put in tons of hours and get very little, if anything, in return. Eventually they might hire that person but it takes years and unpaid servitude.

Edited 1 time

totodile

5M ago

"staffers making regular apologies for leaving 15 minutes early"
They think they shouldn't apologise for leaving a meeting early? Might just be me but isn't that common courtesy?

"account for virtually every minute of their day on a timesheet"
Yes, that is how most businesses operate. This is nothing to get anxious about...?

"worried about posting on social media, as they fear they’ll get fired for sharing any number of opinions or comments"
Also pretty common practise where you don't make publicly negative comments about your employer, which your contract almost definitely includes.

Obviously staff being overworked is a problem, and Nintendo should address this, but other than that...Maybe I'm getting old (I'm only 28??), but these workers seem a bit worked up about nothing. I'm pro the sentiment shared in /r/antiwork, but these reports about Nintendo seem like they're reaching for controversy.


the_crimson_lure

5M ago

After reading through the IGN article, I think they've kind of got 2 separate concepts mixed up:

1. If NOA is hiring contract workers, yet giving them full-time workloads, then of course this is dishonest and needs to be corrected.

2. Having to apologize for leaving early, accounting for worktime to the minute, and separating out contract employees sucks, sure, but it's completely standard for Japanese work culture, and also not rare for western companies as well, and usually for reason. (NOE had a Nintendo direct leaked by a non-full-time employee, for example.)

The rest is mostly just fanboy delusions meets the cruel realities of actual business, and culture differences between Japan and the U.S.

As a side note, I find it funny how IGN holds up the Pokemon Company as a positive example, as the real working conditions within that company's Tokyo headquarters are truly terrible, even by Japanese standards. (They do pay very well, though.)

As well as the line implying 3DS was a failure. Sure it stalled out of the gate, but Nintendo righted it's course to become very successful in the end.

Overall I can't help but feel the usual gang of videogame journalism sites are trying to take advantage of truly horrible events that have come to light from Activision, Moon Studios, etc., And turn it into clicks by pointing the gun at the company that would definitely get the most clicks: Nintendo.

Edited 1 time

gybones

5M ago

@rawmeatcowboy

“ You could start on a lower run and…” should be “rung” instead of run. Interesting read!

Edited 1 time

cephalogod

5M ago

@totodile

I've worked many jobs, and have never seen one make workers fill out minute-by-minute time sheets. I'd be insulted if they asked me. That shows a complete lack of trust in your employees, a complete inability to assess their production in any other way, and it's inefficient to boot. You're pulling them out of workflow to also fill out a spreadsheet about their workflow.


the_crimson_lure

5M ago

@cephalogod

Since it is NOA, I think that's a valid point.

I've worked at several Japanese companies though, and usually I had to fill out *multiple* forms where they all showed the same thing in a slightly different way: my work that day down to the minute.
So did all my coworkers. And we were full-time.
(It usually took a good 30 min. to get them all filled out each day. So I made sure to write down "30 minutes filling out these darn reports" each time.)

I agree it's inefficient, but Japanese work culture as a whole is terribly inefficient.

It wouldn't be surprising if NCL has a lot of influence on how NOA operates.

Edited 1 time

changer1701

5M ago

I laughed out loud at these complaints. The environment is oddly formal? It's a workplace, not a slumber party. You need to apologize for leaving early? That should be common sense. Accounting for all your time? Hello, they're paying you for this time. These people have obviously never worked in a factory setting or held any other type of blue collar job. Instead, they sound like children expecting the atmosphere of a tech startup in a TV sitcom. Nevermind that Nintendo is a Japanese company where things are just done differently. Might I suggest that if you have a problem when made to feel like you must apologize for leaving early that you, oh I don't know, FIND ANOTHER JOB.

It's dumb clickbait. 95% of "journalism" is simply that, someone somewhere trying to keep the outrage machine going by feeding people nonsense.


totodile

5M ago

@cephalogod

I guess I would need to see what they mean by "minute-by-minute" - if they have to fill in "4 minutes spent in bathroom" or "5 minute chat in kitchen with Sarah about Project A" then yes that is insulting. What about:
2.5 hours on Project A
3.0 hours on Project B
1.0 hour BAU
1.5 hours on Project C
In my experience that's how timesheets work, and is technically "minute-by-minute" - all minutes of the day are accounted for. Projects are given different budgets so time spent working on them needs to be recorded. Filling out a timesheet like that can be done at the end of the day so doesn't disrupt workflow.