Nintendo is loved by many and at least tolerated by curmudgeons. But for contractors, the story isn’t as rosy. IGN published a special report on the growing frustration within Nintendo of America. The company’s HQ in Washington was opened in 2010 with a lesser-known building nearby “that houses a hodge-podge of departments ranging from data science to Product Testing and Development (PDT)”. It’s disparity between these buildings, in decor and treatment of their inhabitants, that opened the report:
A large percentage of the workers inhabiting this building are contractors, many of whom increasingly see themselves as second-class citizens with no hope of earning one of the coveted red badges that can grant them unfettered access to the building just across the way (or even just the soccer pitch, which is also off-limits). That building doesn’t just represent more comfort; it stands for job security, career progression, and even a basic professional respect that many contractors don’t feel in their day-to day life at the company.
The contrast between the two buildings reflects the difference in how Nintendo likes to present itself – a technological imaginarium that puts “smiles on people’s faces” – and the less glamorous reality. Outside of carefully controlled marketing moments, NOA has rarely afforded a glimpse of what it’s actually like to work for one of the most famous video game companies in the real world. But recent reports have former employees and especially contractors finally opening up, and their stories reveal a Nintendo that can be very different from its cheery marketing.
When full-time employees praise Nintendo, they usually talk about how much they like their coworkers, and how it offers enviable job security compared with the typically volatile games industry. But Nintendo is also a very old and traditional company, and that can make it seem restrictive, old-fashioned, and demanding. Adding to that is Nintendo Co. Ltd’s (NCL) influence over the company, which has been described in conversations over the years with sources familiar with Nintendo’s inner workings as frequently distant and heavy-handed.
Talking about what it was like to work at NOA, one former contractor describes the culture in their department as “stilted” and oddly formal, with employees apologizing profusely if they left even 15 minutes early.
“At first I attributed it to being a Japanese company and the expectations that came with it, but it was very much reinforced by the full-time staffers… It seemed like you had to be connected all the time,” they tell IGN.
It looks like the technology isn’t the only withered thing at NOA. Solidarity with the workers!