• Hey, guest user. Hope you're enjoying NeoGAF! Have you considered registering for an account? Come join us and add your take to the daily discourse.

A worker reckoning at Nintendo (AXIOS) Stephen Totilo

kingfey

Banned
I’ve been speaking with current/ex- Nintendo contractors about workplace issues - Many feel strung along - Were frustrated by an internal memo about recent outcries - 2 said a 2014 effort to organize resulted in a non-Nintendo manager urging them not to



Workers at gaming giant Nintendo of America say the company’s reliance on temporary workers is exploitative and that efforts to bring about change have been stymied by fear of reprisal.

Driving the news: Current and former Nintendo contractors have been speaking up over the past three weeks, since Axios first reported a complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board against Nintendo and a contracting firm.

What they’re saying: “I loved what I did. I hated how I was treated,” a former contractor named Ash, who asked that their last name be kept private, tells Axios.

  • They worked in Nintendo’s customer service center for several years through 2015. Strict time-off rules for contractors and limited pathways to full-time employment added to stress that contractors could be dropped at any moment. That pressure, they said, aggravated a heart condition.
  • Ash says their moment of disillusionment came when their grandpa died: “I was told if I went to his funeral, I wouldn’t have a job when I came back.”
State of play: Ash’s story echoed those shared by seven other current and former contractors who spoke with Axios about their time at Nintendo.

  • Their accounts square with those published by gaming news sites Kotaku and IGN. Those outlets cited interviews with dozens of workers who say Nintendo treats its large contingent of contractors, technically employed by staffing firms, as second-class citizens.
  • These contractors fume about a status quo they believe was established to avoid violating labor laws: cycles of 10- or 11-month contracts that can be quickly cut short and are followed by two-month breaks, with expectations they’ll come right back.
  • They describe employees who log three, five, even 10 years of these cycles, without many of the benefits of full-timers, but are never converted to full-time.
The contractors’ stories center on Nintendo of America, the U.S. subsidiary of the Kyoto-based maker of Mario, Zelda and the Switch.

  • NoA, headquartered in Redmond, Washington, has for more than a decade supplemented its full-time labor force with hundreds of contractors, one longtime contractor estimates, who largely work in its customer service and product-testing divisions.
  • Even in the company’s vaunted Treehouse, where games are translated from Japanese and localized for America, Nintendo uses contractors for nearly half of its team, two sources say, keeping them in that status for years at a time.
  • “It goes up to every level,” one current localization contractor told Axios under the condition of anonymity. “It even affects the people writing the games you love.”
Nintendo hasn’t commented publicly about the uproar from its workforce and did not reply to questions from Axios. A few days after contractors began speaking out, NoA president Doug Bowser sent an internal message to employees regarding “stories appearing in some media today about alleged working conditions at Nintendo.”

  • “Like many of you, the executive leadership team and I find many of these points troubling, and we are closely reviewing the content,” he wrote.
  • The message reiterated Nintendo’s “zero-tolerance for inappropriate conduct, including harassment, discrimination or intimidation.”
  • A current contractor in product testing told Axios they found the message disappointing, as it didn’t mention the contractor issue core to so many accounts.
  • (Kotaku had cited four sources saying the NLRB complaint stemmed from a worker being fired after asking about unionization, which Nintendo, in a public statement, denied.)
Between the lines: Nintendo of America’s use of contractors is somewhat typical of game companies and the wider tech industry.

  • But contractors are disappointed with Nintendo, a wealthy company that markets its penchant for putting smiles on faces.
  • “Maybe it’s just because on some level I expected better,” the current testing contractor said. “These companies rely on a contract workforce with no stability.”
Former Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aimé, who worked in senior positions at the company from 2013-19, told Axios that “what’s being described is not the NoA I knew.”

  • He said the company hired “a significant number” of contractors, or associates, into full-time roles during his tenure but added that he “truly understands” the frustration of those who haven’t been.
  • He attributed the company’s use of contractors to the seasonality of Nintendo’s business, where it would generate 60% of its annual revenue around the holidays. “You can’t run a business at that scale without utilizing associate labor to get you there.”
Stymied activism: Contractors who spoke to Axios said they and their peers largely avoided pushing back against management, but two recalled a mid-2014 effort when a group of Nintendo customer service workers began meeting offsite to discuss ways to force change and possible unionization.

  • Those meetings ceased after their management at Nintendo-affiliated Parker Staffing found out about them. Two sources recalled getting an email from a Parker manager encouraging them and their colleagues to think of the company as a family and that organizing wasn’t necessary.
  • “It was union-bustering without technically being union-bustering,” a former contractor recalled.
  • Current contractors say union talk at the company is rare.
What’s next: Former Nintendo contractors hope recent revelations bring change. “If any change is going to happen, it’s going to have to be a bad publicity thing,” says one current contractor.

  • Workers have usually only vented more privately, including in a recently shuttered Facebook group called the Nintendo Recovery Center.
  • Former contractor Ash, who moderated the group, said it had a few hundred members but that they shut it down out of fear of drawing management’s attention.
  • “There’s a really strange and shared trauma between all of us,” they said.
Go deeper:

 

nush

Gold Member
Quite the hot take there. Wanna elaborate on why you draw that conclusion?

We did this topic recently, contract customer services staff feel entitled to a red badge and a promotion to sales and marketing in the main building just because they worked there for a long time.

It's not like they can't find call center and customer support work in any of the other companies in that area with better conditions, but working for Nintendo gives them cred.
 

BigBooper

Gold Member
"They describe employees who log three, five, even 10 years of these cycles, without many of the benefits of full-timers, but are never converted to full-time."

Uh, at a certain point you have to have some initiative. Go find another job if yours is a bad fit for you. Buncha commies.
 

Northeastmonk

Gold Member
Satoru Iwata has a book and it goes into great detail on how to treat/manage your employees. He mentions how important it is to get to know each employee. I’ve read about half of his book and you would not have imagined this type of stuff at all.That’s the Japanese side of Nintendo and probably a much higher pay grade between the people mentioned here. I just recently finished Reggie’s book and you would have thought Nintendo was some sorta amazing company to work for. That’s also coming from another high level employee. Contractors aren’t meeting up to go to dinner with the VIP’s. They’re exactly what they are, contract employees.

What I find somewhat amusing is how Reggie briefly mentions Stephen’s name in his book. It sounded like they had a good bond. I wonder what sparks this odd below the belt article? An angry contractor who wants to work for Nintendo full time?
 
Last edited:

Kuranghi

Gold Member
"They describe employees who log three, five, even 10 years of these cycles, without many of the benefits of full-timers, but are never converted to full-time."

Uh, at a certain point you have to have some initiative. Go find another job if yours is a bad fit for you. Buncha commies.

Exactly, I love my job and it pays really well for what I do but I know it's just a wage job where I could be fired really easily and not a salaried position with the company proper. Its really fun though so just now I'm focusing on other stuff in life (building skills and selling property) while I make more money than many friends who work 50-75% more hours than me and have 10x the responsibility and stress.

People live in fantasy land these days.
 

Scotty W

Member
Japanese worked in American sweatshops after WW2. Now it is time for Americans to work in Japanese sweatshops.
 

Bragr

Member
Jesus, this is unbelievable, it's the same sources and the same stories as the nonsense the media have been trying to heave up over the last few weeks.

This is the dumbest case I have ever seen based on the dumbest evidence that I have ever heard.

I'm a millennial, but I feel sorry for the modern companies having to deal with a millennial and gen-z workforce, this is the sort of people they have to hire, no wonder it's all just bullshit every day:





 

Ladioss

Member
So the complaints are focused on NoA, from employees in customer service and QA, and criticize customs more or less typical of the industry. I detect a pattern.

These Nintendo hit pieces are a bit suspicious

Obviously, Nintendo need more political commissars calling the shots, and their games needs more of the "correct" brand of polictics while being more grooming-friendly.
 
Last edited:

ReBurn

Gold Member
technically employed by staffing firms

More like actually employed by staffing firms. As in work related to some of Nintendo's business processes is outsourced to consulting firms and these people work for those consulting firms. These people can't tell the difference between working at Nintendo and working for Nintendo.
 
Last edited:

StreetsofBeige

Gold Member
"They describe employees who log three, five, even 10 years of these cycles, without many of the benefits of full-timers, but are never converted to full-time."

Uh, at a certain point you have to have some initiative. Go find another job if yours is a bad fit for you. Buncha commies.
Yup.

And hey, video game development seems heavy in contract workers probably because game development isnt a steady stream of work for many functions. Thats the nature of the industry. I wouldnt hire them FT either unless I know they are all needed at all times for the whole project, or if they are good for the next project and can right away move to a new game asap. If not, no point hiring someone FT twiddling their thumbs.

If a game takes 3 years to be made, I'm pretty sure all the graphics, audio, and Q&A testers dont have to be there from day 1 when the game's first concept was someone doing napkin math to launch day.

On the other hand, if you want a steady FT job, go work in finance or be office building's facility manager. These kinds of roles are almost always FT jobs. Makes sense as there's steady job to do. And when there is contract work, its a temp thing for something seasonal like tax season. We hire tax temps too in Dec/Jan to close out the year. But we dont need them 365 days a year.
 
It's actually kinda annoying for someone who would want to see some actual dirt on Nintendo to see them being singled out for "standard American corporate procedure" like contracted jobs, that every other company does but only Nintendo gets run up the coals for.

Where's my Activision-Blizzard level of sexual harassment allegation or Kojima-tier mistreatment of a long-time employee? The way people hype up these sorts of stings at Nintendo, we should be demanding one or more of those (in a "put up or shut up" way).

In theory one of the advantages of contract work is you can just say "fuck you guys" at the end of your contract and take your skills elsewhere. Assuming you actually have some skills and weren't hired for... other reasons...
And yeah, there's also this. Nintendo can't demand you follow the corporate line as a contractor, so they can't hush you for daring to mention that fan-made port of SM64 to PC, or the Mother 3 fan translation being played on a GBA Emulator for PC. There's other people who'd be eager to take contracts from Nintendo because they want the benefits of working with them while maintaining their independence, and it must be frustrating for them to have to hear from these guys who take their jobs, then whine about how it's not full-time Nintendo employment which likely involves a completely different hiring process to begin with.
 

Ailike

Member
Jesus, this is unbelievable, it's the same sources and the same stories as the nonsense the media have been trying to heave up over the last few weeks.

This is the dumbest case I have ever seen based on the dumbest evidence that I have ever heard.

I'm a millennial, but I feel sorry for the modern companies having to deal with a millennial and gen-z workforce, this is the sort of people they have to hire, no wonder it's all just bullshit every day:
Yes. Please make this post about a culture war. We love it here on GAF when every issue is turned into a culture war.
 

poppabk

Member
I swear the world is filled with some of the least-hearted people ever. This post is ridiculous!
I'm talking about the journalists more than the disgruntled employees. Contract work sucks, and I don't think you would find a single industry or company where you won't find a handful (7 in this case) of unhappy current and former contract workers. But the push by journalists to try and create momentum for this seems completely artificial.
 

StreetsofBeige

Gold Member
In theory one of the advantages of contract work is you can just say "fuck you guys" at the end of your contract and take your skills elsewhere. Assuming you actually have some skills and weren't hired for... other reasons...
True.

You always hear about contract workers bitching about work. But you never hear the good parts. One guy at my work is on contract for like 10 years. He prefers it that way. He does his job and goes home. Nobody bugs him during off hours, and he never works on weekends. He doesnt even get a company cell phone so he's not checking for emails after dinner regardless. I have never seen one email from the guy ever after 5 pm or on a weekend.

He likes piece of mind and is willing to forego FT perks for it. The guy probably gets paid a big hourly wage to compensate for lost FT perks anyway.
 
Last edited:

daveonezero

Member
These people didn’t work for Nintendo.

They worked for a company that was contracted by Nintendo.

I am an independent contractor. I’ve done work for large companies. I don’t bitch about how they treat me because I like being independent and not beholden to their demands.

You can’t complain that Nintendo treats you poorly when you literally don’t have the skills to work for Nintendo and in fact don’t work for Nintendo.
 
Last edited:

NickFire

Member
I swear some of these reporters just love reporting on delayed games. Its the only way my head can rationalize the constant workers are oppressed stories.
 

ReBurn

Gold Member
These people didn’t work for Nintendo.

They worked for a company that was contracted by Nintendo.

I am an independent contractor. I’ve done work for large companies. I don’t bitch about how they treat me because I like being independent and not beholden to their demands.
I spent much of my late 20's and early 30's installing equipment and software in corporate offices and distribution facilities across North America. I didn't get to attend employee lunches, holiday parties and birthday parties those companies sponsored, either. But I knew I didn't work for those companies.

I get that these people didn't feel like they were part of Nintendo. But they weren't part of Nintendo. Most likely they worked in a Parker call center. NOA outsources a bunch of customer service work to Parker and Parker handles the hassle of management, training, hiring, turnover, etc. Most people only stay in these jobs for a couple of months so it's less stress on internal HR at Nintendo if another company deals with it. If these folks want to work for Nintendo they should be applying for Nintendo jobs.

Maybe they were confused and believed the job they took was actually with Nintendo. Maybe Parker misrepresented it. But you'd think when that first paycheck showed up that they would have understood who they were working for.
 

supernova8

Member
If you take a contract position (and one which is indirect and via basically a temp staffing company) then tough shit. Gain experience and then move somewhere else in the hope of a proper (directly-employed) position. If you stay there then it's 99% your own fault.
 

mckmas8808

Mckmaster uses MasterCard to buy Slave drives
I'm talking about the journalists more than the disgruntled employees. Contract work sucks, and I don't think you would find a single industry or company where you won't find a handful (7 in this case) of unhappy current and former contract workers. But the push by journalists to try and create momentum for this seems completely artificial.

Even so, somebody needs to speak on it. No reason to ignore when people are being treated unfairly.
 
If you take a contract position (and one which is indirect and via basically a temp staffing company) then tough shit. Gain experience and then move somewhere else in the hope of a proper (directly-employed) position. If you stay there then it's 100% your own fault.
 

Daytonabot

Member
It's almost like there is a near infinite supply of people who can do these jobs and a limited number of positions required. If only there were a way to predict what happens under those circumstances.

Too bad these idiots more likely majored in gender studies than economics.
 

th4tguy

Member
Contract work sucks and if they can do something to argue for better treatment, then I hope they can. This is not just a Nintendo issue.
 

HarryKS

Member
I don't think trying to ask for more at the workplace is a bad thing. Companies make money yeah, but if you work, and you have a minimum of empathy, it doesn't require much imagination to think of how this is a perverse way of treating people. Especially the dangling of the 'possible Full time employment' carrot towards employees on short term contracts.


It is one thing to appreciate capitalism, but it it also important not to lose one's humanity. Can't become a corporate apologist.
 

Daytonabot

Member
It is one thing to appreciate capitalism, but it it also important not to lose one's humanity. Can't become a corporate apologist.
The thing about capitalism is that it has built-in checks and balances. Unemployment is incredibly low, so people have freedom to "vote" by leaving, much like consumers can and should do with their dollars. After a mass exodus, a company will raise salaries, improve benefits, or whatever else it takes to stay in business, obviously assuming there is profit left to do so.

Of course, the idiotic COVID relief payments have put us on the path to a potential recession, so that opportunity may be a limited time offer at the moment. That's one reason governments shouldn't monkey with markets, as our elected buffoons demonstrate limited understanding of basic economics.
 
Last edited:

HarryKS

Member
The thing about capitalism is that it has built-in checks and balances. Unemployment is incredibly low, so people have freedom to "vote" by leaving, much like consumers can and should do with their dollars. After a mass exodus, a company will raise salaries, improve benefits, or whatever else it takes to stay in business, obviously assuming there is profit left to do so.

Of course, the idiotic COVID relief payments have put us on the path to a potential recession, so that opportunity may be a limited time offer at the moment. That's one reason governments shouldn't monkey with markets, as our elected buffoons demonstrate limited understanding of basic economics.
Beyond the economic analysis, with which I mostly agree, my issue has mostly to do with the rights and treatment of workers. I'm not a bleeding heart but there are certain issues which affect us all and to which we mustn't be blind.


Basically, we cannot throw the baby out with the bathwater.
 

Daytonabot

Member
Beyond the economic analysis, with which I mostly agree, my issue has mostly to do with the rights and treatment of workers. I'm not a bleeding heart but there are certain issues which affect us all and to which we mustn't be blind.


Basically, we cannot throw the baby out with the bathwater.
I'm with you, as long as you're not proposing the government "fix" it. I have and would absolutely stop purchasing from a company that truly exploits its workers, Nike being a great example.
 

HarryKS

Member
I'm with you, as long as you're not proposing the government "fix" it. I have and would absolutely stop purchasing from a company that truly exploits its workers, Nike being a great example.
No government for me. Just naming and shaming genuinely exploitative methods in the workplace. People have a right to the protection of their dignity, out of human decency.
 

chriskun

Member
It’s funny when you read these articles and it turns out to be the customer service team, not the game developers. I work in customer service so my heart goes out to these people(the job fucking sucks) but it’s an entry level job, there is no upward movement because there is nowhere to go. Your only option is to get a degree or license in something and get a different job.
 

nush

Gold Member
It’s funny when you read these articles and it turns out to be the customer service team, not the game developers. I work in customer service so my heart goes out to these people(the job fucking sucks) but it’s an entry level job, there is no upward movement because there is nowhere to go. Your only option is to get a degree or license in something and get a different job.

That's true, it does take skill to be good at customer support often made harder by the actual company your working for self sabotaging the efforts but it really is dead end career wise. I worked customer services for a small company, low volume calls and letters to reply too but I was also QA for the products. So I knew how to actually know how to help the customers. Eventually that company just outsourced customer services and I was moved to pure QA and then into actual product development.

That call centre they used in the north of England was never going to be a place we recruited new staff from no matter how knowledgeble they became about our products.
 

Eevee86

Member
Just feels like journalists trying to turn this into some huge scandal since it's the only time they get real clicks. Hurry up and go down the drain, game journalism.
 
Top Bottom