In a lengthy investigation published this week on IGN, Kat Bailey offers us a rare glimpse behind the scenes of Nintendo of America and more precisely on the dichotomy between full-time employees, who can be seen frolicking on the ultramodern campus of Redmond, and temporary workers who work in a neighboring older building under less favorable conditions.
“Second-class citizens“, this is how the temporary workers interviewed by IGN consider themselves. The lack of consideration suffered by these contractors, as they are known in the United States, is an increasingly popular topic in the video game industry and far beyond. Activision has also made headlines recently (for good this time) by announcing the transformation of 1,000 temporary contracts into full-time positions, which implies not only a better salary but also a real feeling of belonging to the company and the prospect of being able to progress in it.
More flexible and less expensive than employees, temporary workers are also legion at Nintendo of America. Lone workers are given a blue badge that does not give them access to corporate headquarters or even the nearby soccer field, facilities accessible only to “real” Nintendo employees, those with the coveted red badge. IGN’s investigation highlights the contrast between the image that Nintendo likes to give itself through marketing that is as joyful as it is controlled, and a less welcoming reality for workers who are not lucky enough to be on the right side. of the Mushroom Kingdom.
Full-time employees generally praise Nintendo, whether we’re talking about the atmosphere or the seemingly stronger job security compared to the rest of the video game industry. Nintendo of America has a staff turnover rate of 4.7% that is significantly lower than that of other technology companies, an industry whose average is close to 13%. Even today, one can find at Nintendo of America a certain number of people having known the time of the NES.
Among temporary workers, on the other hand, there is a surprisingly strict, formal and bureaucratic work culture, with workers who flatly apologize if they have to leave 15 minutes early. Temporary workers explain that they need to account for almost every minute of their day on an attendance sheet and it is against a backdrop of paranoia that some say they are afraid to leave their workstation for a few minutes to go to the bathroom, for fear that Microsoft Teams does not mark them as inactive.
Kat Bailey could only measure the contrast between these testimonies and the “sometimes overwhelming positivity“full-time employees who constantly talk about how lucky they are to be at Nintendo, especially in areas like marketing and localization. to crack on April 15 when the Axios site revealed the complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board. This claims that Nintendo of America and the recruiting firm Aston Carter engaged in “concerted activities” and took “coercive measures“against a worker in his efforts to organize, which has prompted testimonies from former Nintendo collaborators who do not have good memories of their experience.
IGN’s investigation adds to an article by Kotaku which already highlighted the unfavorable treatment given to subcontractors by Nintendo of America. In this report, former temporary workers spoke of being discouraged from using facilities such as Café Mario or of strict attendance hours which could lead to them being fired if they missed three days of work, among other limitations. Contractors are excluded from everything, including the company’s holiday party (unless invited by a full-time employee) and other red badge-only activities. Morale is all the less good as the chances of being hired full-time have appeared to be particularly low for a number of years.
“Nintendo is a very big, complicated and secretive company. And that’s kind of the root of the problem. Every contractor starts with the hope of becoming a regular employee, and very, very, very few people make it.“, testifies one of the former collaborators of Nintendo for IGN. According to the observations of the survey, the employees felt a change in the culture of Nintendo around 2015, a relatively dark period for a manufacturer plagued with doubts after the failure of the Wii U and the death of the late CEO Satoru Iwata Five years ago, carried by the Wii/DS generation, Nintendo was in sparkling form inaugurating its brand new campus in Redmond.
As of 2015, the chances of being promoted full-time have largely dried up and new hires have not been legion either in certain areas where the needs have nevertheless increased sharply in recent years, such as writers and editors. in localization. Like many other companies, Nintendo preferred to rely on temporary collaborators for questions of money and flexibility, which is not without complicating the progress of certain operations. For comparison, all employees of The Pokémon Company localization department would be full-time employees.
As IGN reminds us, citing articles from CNBC and the New York Times, the exploitation of Nintendo of America temps is not an exceptional case in the technology sector. Some experiences are nonetheless uplifting to read, such as that of Jenn, who was once blamed for her “attendance issues” because she was forced to return home in the middle of the interview process due to death. of his sister.
Like many others, Jenn gave up on landing a full-time job after 10 years at Nintendo, only realizing much later how bad her situation was. “We loved working there, we were just so exploited. We didn’t really realize it until we left… At Nintendo, I was driven by passion and love for the product, and they know there’s always a queue of people who will do exactly the same for dog food. And that’s the sad thing. They know if you complain they can let you go and hire the next Jenn. I didn’t know I was on the planet of death until I left it“, she summarizes.
If Nintendo did not wish to comment on the investigation of IGN, the site obtained a reaction from Reggie Fils-Aimé, former great figure of Nintendo of America who was just passing through to promote the release of his book. Not surprisingly, Regginator denies any responsibility in the portrait that is painted today of his former company. “At this point, I retired from Nintendo of America three years ago and cannot comment on what is happening within the company today. What I can say is that when I was there we regularly hired contract employees as permanent employees […] This has always been a positive part of the corporate culture. I read the same stories about this division between contract and full-time employees. All I can say is this is not at all the culture I left behind when I retired from Nintendo“, commented the one whose body is always ready.
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