In early January, with Japan posting some of its highest covid-19 cases, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared a state of emergency for a number of prefectures, including Osaka. As part of this declaration, the government asked corporate employees to work from home or limit the number of staff in the office.
According to Business Journal, even as the state of emergency was declared, Capcom allegedly “forced employees” to go to work.
This whistleblowing report claims to detail the “actual conditions” for game developers at the company. The publication adds that while the complaints are not a clear violation of the country’s Labor Standards Act, they do illustrate questionable practices within the Japanese game industry.
Last November, Capcom suffered a cyber attack with 1TB of employee and customer data stolen. Due to this attack, Business Journal explains, Capcom was reportedly unable to safely say it had secured an external network for employees to work remotely. (There were supposedly even security concerns about using VPNs.) The idea of a remote system was, therefore, completely abandoned, the report continues, and it was decided that there was no choice but to have staff come to the office. An email sent to developers reportedly stated the following: “We are abandoning the remote network for the time being, and it was decided there is no choice but to come to work.” All of this is said to have caused anxiety and uneasiness within the company.
Capcom replied to these claims, stating that the company does take the health and safety of staff seriously. Furthermore, it added that work hours had been staggered and telecommuting was implemented. At the office, masks are required and social distancing is enforced. Employees also have their temperature checked when they enter.
Business Journal indicated there could be larger corporate culture issues at hand. For example, things like flexible work hours are supposedly dependent on one’s position within Capcom. What’s more, Business Journal reports that the Osaka-based game maker does not apparently have a union and won’t even allow one. Capcom replied that it does follow Japanese labor law and that it does listen to its employees, and has created an environment that takes their rights into consideration. The company added that it could not confirm any talk about establishing or joining a union.
Concerns over security exist throughout the game industry, even when companies aren’t in the process of dealing with recent cyber attacks. “This is a highly confidential job, and because it’s not like people can take it home and bring development materials with them, honestly, work cannot progress,” Smash Bros. creator Masahiro Sakurai wrote in March 2020 about working from home options. Sakurai, however, has been working from home during the pandemic, even filming Super Smash Bros. Ultimate announcements himself.
Nintendo has also allowed employees to work remotely, as has Sony Japan. Last fall, Square Enix announced it was offering a permanent work-from-home option to help its employees achieve a better work-life balance.
Kotaku has reached out to Capcom for comment.
UPDATE March 12 - 7:30am: Capcom has replied to Kotaku’s questions regarding the status of a company union and whether developers were forced to work from the office during the latest state of emergency in Osaka. Capcom’s answers are below:
While there are none currently active within the company, employees are free to form labor unions. Capcom strictly observes all relevant laws and regulations regarding employees forming labor unions.
Capcom is committed to strictly observing all laws and regulations while furthering a working environment that prioritizes employee health, safety and peace of mind.
Capcom strives to provide a workplace environment with the utmost consideration given to the health and safety of employees. We have implemented both staggered work hours and telecommuting to the greatest extent possible, while carrying out best practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including social distancing at the office, checking employees’ temperatures upon entry to the office and providing masks to all employees.
While the State of Emergency was in effect last year, from April 13 through May 25 of 2020, Capcom implemented a general policy of telecommuting and stay-at-home measures (special paid leave) for its employees, including members of development; in 2021, Capcom has endeavored to limit attendance at its offices as much as possible by utilizing a combination of staggered work hours and stay-at-home measures. Further, when employees have been requested to come into work, the company has provided consultation beforehand in order to take each individual employee’s personal circumstances into consideration and has not forced attendance.