Nintendo of America (NOA) is the latest in a string of companies where former employees have levied complaints about an unfair and hostile work environment.
Stemming from a complaint filed by the National Labor Relations Board, Axios reported that the company and recruiting firm Aston Carter had violated employees’ legally protected right to organize. This opened the floodgates, as former contractors and employees alike took to Twitter to air their grievances.
A few days later, Kotaku published their own report on Nintendo of America’s poor treatment of contractors. Only yesterday, IGN released a special report on the terrible workplace culture after interviewing over a dozen current and former full-time employees and contractors across several departments.
All the reports contradict the family-friendly, magical facade that Nintendo of America promotes for itself. Instead, contractors are reportedly scrutinized and penalized for things out of their control such as bathroom breaks, running late due to traffic, or even something menial like spending too much time within the employee cafe.
Employees cite that the difficult year of 2015 — when beloved Nintendo President Satoru Iwata passed and the Wii U and 3DS were causing the company to hemorrhage money — as a turning point within NOA. It was around this time that opportunities for contract hires to transfer to NOA full-time allegedly dried up; the path toward becoming a “red-carder,” a nickname for NOA employees, disappeared. In its place was an endless cycle of work that annually burned out contractors, creating a vicious cycle over hiring sprees followed by mass exoduses.
As Nintendo has seen success with the Switch and their entrance into the mobile market, one source estimated to IGN that “[the] demand for localization writers and editors has nearly doubled over the past three years … but that there have reportedly been no full-time hires within Nintendo’s localization team in that period.”
The 2021 closure of both the Redwood City, Calif. and Toronto, Canada satellite offices exacerbated issues within the company; after two years of working from home during a pandemic, NOA was demanding employees relocate to Redmond, Wash. Popular personalities Kit Ellis and Krysta Yang, who hosted Nintendo Minute, took the closure as an opportunity to leave the company they had dedicated 14 years for.
While we await a response, or actual changes, from Nintendo of America, it’s a good time to remember that employees all across the videogame industry are revolting. Activision Blizzard has too many issues to name quickly, Sony is dealing with allegations of sexism, and Ubisoft has the double whammy of people fleeing the studio while forcing NFTs onto consumers and employees alike.