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Nintendo's contract workers are speaking up about poor conditions

Weeks after being hit with an NLRB complaint, Nintendo is facing growing negative accounts from current and former contract employees.

Bryant Francis, Senior Editor

May 12, 2022

2 Min Read
A screenshot of Super Mario Odyssey

Nintendo's contract hiring practices are in the spotlight after weeks of contract employee accounts hitting the media about poor working conditions at the company's Redmond-area offices. These stories began to spread after Nintendo and staffing partner Aston Parker were hit by a complaint from the United States' National Labor Relations Board

The latest of these comes from Axios, which interviewed several current and former Nintendo of America contractors. According to several employees, Nintendo's reliance on contract workers comes hand-in-hand with incredibly tight oversight and harsh reactions to any time off. One former contractor told the outlet that when their grandfather died, they were told that they "would not have a job when they got back" if they attended his funeral.

Notably, Axios also seems to indicate that word of negative stories at Nintendo has reached upper management. Nintendo of America president Doug Bowser apparently issued an internal memo saying that they found stories reaching the public "troubling" and that management is "closely reviewing the content."

It does not appear that Nintendo is making any major changes to its staffing practices at this time.

Both Kotaku and IGN have reported similar stories in the last few weeks. Kotaku's reporting described instances of contract employees being reprimanded by managers from the firms that act as middle-people between them and Nintendo for even the most minor attempts to advocate for themselves. 

All three sites described a practice of routinely hiring contractors for 10-11 month contracts, allegedly treating them like full-time employees but denying them essential benefits.

IGN reported on similar stories, and indicated that how Nintendo and its partners treated partners allegedly changed around 2015, when the company was struggling with the floundering Wii U while racing to launch the Nintendo Switch.

Whether it was Nintendo of America, its Japan headquarters, or the contracting firms that hired temporary employees that instilled these practices remains unclear. Some employees describe domineering oversight from Japan HQ, others call out managers from staffing partners like Parker Staffing and Aston Carter. 

Nintendo of America's relationship with both organizations sat at the center of all of these complaints.

We've reached out to Nintendo for comment on this story and will update it when the company responds.

About the Author(s)

Bryant Francis

Senior Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Bryant Francis is a writer, journalist, and narrative designer based in Boston, MA. He currently writes for Game Developer, a leading B2B publication for the video game industry. His credits include Proxy Studios' upcoming 4X strategy game Zephon and Amplitude Studio's 2017 game Endless Space 2.

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