Last week, Nintendo localization editor Chris Pranger made an appearance on a small podcast called Part-Time Gamers. This week, Nintendo fired him.
“Hello friends and family,” Pranger wrote in a heartbreaking public Facebook message this morning. “As many of you have probably seen, I am no longer at Nintendo. I was terminated this week due to a podcast appearance I made last Monday. It was a stupid judgment call on my part and ultimately it cost me far more than I could have imagined.”
On August 3, the Part-Time Gamers podcast posted their interview with Pranger, who spoke candidly about his work in Nintendo’s secretive Treehouse, where the company translates and localizes software from Japanese to English and other languages. In the following days, a number of Nintendo fan-sites and other message boards picked up on the interview, posting a whole lot of excerpts they found interesting. GoNintendo, for example, reported on Pranger defending the Wii U’s name and talking about how passionate Smash Bros. designer Masahiro Sakurai can be.
Although the podcast didn’t draw a ton of mainstream attention, fans found it fascinating because it has become so rare to hear Nintendo employees speak about the company without specific PR approval. Nintendo, like most Japanese video game companies, tends to prohibit its staff from speaking to the public about its inner workings unless they are given explicit approval from their communications teams both in the U.S. and Japan.
As it turns out, even a handful of seemingly innocuous comments can lead Nintendo to fire an employee. “I spent the last week in a miserable place once the podcast began getting coverage,” Pranger said on Facebook. “I was instantly scared when a coworker poked me and said, ‘Hey, you’re on GoNintendo.’ Suddenly article after article began appearing in game sites of all languages. Comments sections painted me as an idiot and the like. My Twitter started giving me hourly reminders from people meaning well and otherwise. It seemed unthinkable that I’d be let go for a single moment of poor judgment and my own misunderstandings, but here we are.”
Last Thursday, a NeoGAF poster transcribed one particular section of Pranger’s podcast comments that angered a few fans. He had poked fun at people who say things like “Why do you hate money, Nintendo?” while asking the company to localize niche games, pointing out that games like Xenoblade don’t often sell enough to justify expensive voice acting and other production costs. “We got it in the States by luck,” he said, “that NoE decided, ‘Oh, we’ll take the fall. We’ll localize that.’ Okay, ‘cause someone is going to have to eat the costs somewhere, because that game is guaranteed to not sell enough to justify how big that game is.”
It’s not clear exactly which parts of the podcast led Nintendo to fire Pranger—and Pranger declined to comment when I reached out to him this afternoon—but he didn’t talk about any unannounced games or other information that might be considered a trade secret to an outside observer. Nintendo has not yet responded to requests for comment. [UPDATE (3:43pm): Nintendo adds: “We have no comment on this topic other than to wish Chris the best in his future endeavors.”]
“I look around my house and see images of my son and feel such intense shame and crippling sadness,” Pranger wrote on Facebook. “I know that if I can’t find a job at least as good as this one, I won’t be able to provide for my family I’ve lost them their health coverage and their security. I also know that I’ve probably lost a good deal of my friends, just because I know how hard it can be to stay in touch with someone when the convenience of proximity is lost. I’m so sorry to everyone. I’ve failed you. You believed in me and supported me and trusted me and I’ve failed you. I’ve failed me.”
Top image: Sentavio/Shutterstock