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Doug Bowser says Nintendo of America is too happy to unionize

Bowser believes Nintendo of America has done such a good job of being inclusive and securing proper work/life balance a union isn't needed right now.

Justin Carter, Contributing Editor

October 20, 2023

2 Min Read
Logo for Nintendo.

Amidst the larger unionization drive happening across the game industry in the last year, Nintendo of America (NoA) head Doug Bowser supports workers' rights to union, but doesn't think the company is presently in need of one. 

Talking to Inverse, Bowser explained that the developer has received high job satisfaction ratings from employee feedback, and has a retention rate that's "very high" within the industry. From his perspective, Nintendo's focus on "how to create the best work culture and environment we possibly can" suggests it wouldn't benefit from a labor movement.

It's worth noting that last year QA worker Mackenzie Clifton was fired by NoA and staffing partner Aston Carter for allegedly trying to unionize staff. Clifton claimed the companies engaged in union-busting practices from coercive statements and actions (like surveillance) to retaliation and refusal to hire. 

Nintendo and Aston Carter were also the subject of a second, separate complaint to the NLRB regarding alleged union-busting behavior. Clifton later settled with the two companies: Aston Carter had to give them back pay, while Nintendo was legally required to inform QA workers of their rights to organize and bargain collectively. 

Bowser further told Inverse Nintendo of America is "always listening to our workers and we want to make sure we have both formal and informal ways of....understanding the needs of our employees and where we can improve." 

"Everyone has the right to form a union," he continued, "and certainly in the future, wherever it takes us, we'll respect that."

A growing trend towards unionization

Unions have mainly been formed at midsize developers, but workers at larger studios such as Raven Software and Sega of America have recently started up their own unions. In the case of the former, its union formed as Activision Blizzard's longstanding problems were brought to light. 

Whether Bowser is right about Nintendo of America having high satisfaction ratings and a focus of "bringing smiles to faces," that doesn't render the need for a union moot. Too often, public claims of a company being full of people happy to be there have been the cover for a number of troubling, sometimes disturbing stories that end up surfacing down the line. 

A union wouldn't fix everything instantly, but it could be a reliable safety net for an industry that's all too used to instability by offering underpaid staff (like QA) clearer pathways toward additional pay, further inclusion with other developers, and other benefits.

Bowser's full interview with Inverse, which covers the lifespan of the Nintendo Switch and its eventual successor, and its approach to game preservation, can be read here.

About the Author(s)

Justin Carter

Contributing Editor, GameDeveloper.com

A Kansas City, MO native, Justin Carter has written for numerous sites including IGN, Polygon, and SyFy Wire. In addition to Game Developer, his writing can be found at io9 over on Gizmodo. Don't ask him about how much gum he's had, because the answer will be more than he's willing to admit.

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