In light of recent reports by Kotaku and others about worker complaints at Nintendo of America, former president and gaming icon Reggie Fils-Aimé was asked about how the company treats its employees. “I know I was able to achieve [a healthy culture], and certainly what’s being described does not seem like a healthy culture,” he told The Washington Post in an interview Tuesday.
Fils-Aimé is currently on a mini-press tour promoting his new business memoir, Disrupting the Game: From the Bronx to the Top of Nintendo. Much of the book documents his time overseeing the company’s largest business unit outside of Japan from its Redmond, Washington headquarters. However, it arrives just as many current and former Nintendo of America employees are speaking up about exploitative working conditions at the beloved gaming company, following news of a labor complaint reported by Axios.
At the heart of this arrangement is a contractor system that employs hundreds of testers, customer service reps, and other “associates” in a permatemp status where they receive low pay, poor benefits, and no guarantee of job security even as they do the same work as people in full-time positions. As first reported on by Kotaku, current and former employees say this creates a two-tier system where permatemp associates feel like second-class employees, both in terms of compensation and the lack of respect from top brass.
“As I read the stories and I read the reports it struck me that this wasn’t the Nintendo I left,” Fils-Aimé told The Washington Post. He went on to point out that during his tenure from 2006 to 2019 he held regular lunch meetings with employees that permatemp associates were free to sign up for and attend. One former associate told Kotaku they were aware of the lunches but had never heard of contract workers being allowed to attend. They and others did not even have badge access to the main building in which they were held.
On Tuesday, IGN released its own report documenting complaints about the contractor system and general employee dissatisfaction with some of the ways Nintendo of America operates. “It’s always been a positive part of the culture to recruit in the very best of the contract employees into the company,” Fils-Aimé told IGN’s Nintendo podcast in a separate interview. “This division between contract and full-time employees—all I can say is that that is not at all the culture that I left as I retired from Nintendo.”
Whether Fils-Aimé and others in leadership were aware of it or not, dozens of current and former employees have told Kotaku frustration over the contractor system was well known within the ranks for years. While morale and specific issues fluctuated over time, complaints about poor pay, and lack of opportunities for hard-working associates to progress within the company, are not new to the last few years, they say.
Fils-Aimé, through his publicist, declined an interview request by Kotaku. He also declined to elaborate further on his recent comments about working conditions at the company. “Reggie has already relayed his position on this question in other interviews, and since it’s not something that he discusses in the book, he doesn’t have anything else to comment on at this time,” his publicist wrote in an email.