Early in April 2022, reports of poor working conditions at Nintendo of America surfaced, accusing the company and a third-party hiring firm of “concerted activities” and “coercive actions” to prevent unionisation, and the struggles of part-time workers and contractors to secure time off and decent pay.
On May 23rd, 2022, Washington Post games journalist Mike Hume spoke to Reggie Fils-Aimé, the former President of Nintendo of America, as part of Fils-Aimé’s book launch — and several of his questions were on the topics of unionisation and mistreatment of temporary workers.
Here’s what Reggie had to say:
“[When I was at Nintendo of America] I made it a priority to have a culture within the organisation that was welcoming… that promoted all the workers that we had… and so, these reports are really troubling.
I did not have a situation as the leader of the company where we had a broad issue with our associate base. It just wasn’t there.
What I would say today is that every organisation needs to look hard at their employment practices, especially in this time of COVID, and make sure that they are being progressive, that they are being welcoming to all their employees whether they’re full-time or not, and to make sure that they’ve got the policies and principles in place to have a welcoming work environment… and to make sure that there are no systemic issues going on.”
Hume then asked Fils-Aimé what leaders could do to ensure worker satisfaction, to which Fils-Aimé responded that “you can’t be directly involved in every single issue,” but that it is a leader’s job to enact change from the top down:
“I do believe it is the role of company leadership to set a culture in the organisation and to set the tone. And that tone starts with having openness and having every employee in the organisation that can come to you and raise an issue, that’s certainly the culture that I advocated while I was at Nintendo.
“There’s only so much I can do as president of the company, but if I have the right mentality, the right culture throughout the organisation, then the entire organisation can do much more than what I can do individually.
“When issues do come up, you need to be aggressive dealing with them — you can’t ignore them, you can’t push them under the rug, you have to deal with them, and deal with them swiftly.”
When asked directly about unions, Fils-Aimé spoke broadly:
“The last 2.5 years have created some really challenging situations…it’s been a lot tougher to do work, and to do good work.”
“In many industries, unionisation is a good thing. As a leader, you need to look hard and if this is what your employees want, you need to address that, and embrace it, and move forward.”
“I’ve worked in industries that have had high levels of unionization. This is not a good or bad thing, it is a situation that, as a leader, as an executive, you need to manage just like any other challenge or issue or opportunity that you face.”
On the increased number of company acquisitions and mergers:
“Do I believe, as a result of these acquisitions, there will actually be more game development companies? I do, and I say this because as a result of these mergers and acquisitions there will be senior-level talent who will not be satisfied being part of this larger organisation, and they will want to pursue the creation of their own content, the creation of their own intellectual property.
“And so, I believe this is going to give rise to quite the number of what’s called in this industry “Double-A”, or large independent developers, that are gonna make great content.”
There are, of course, other tidbits here and there — like Reggie Fils-Aimé referring to himself as the “brash marketer” who came in to shake things up at Nintendo, and that at least some of his wackier stunts were “overall corporate decision[s]” to move Nintendo in a new direction — so we’ve provided the full talk above (the talk begins at 14:33).
Do you agree with Reggie’s thoughts on topics like unionisation, bad company practices, and acquisitions? Let us know in the comments.