For almost every gamer out there, working within the games industry would be a dream come true. Getting to play a role in such a creative industry, no matter what rung of the ladder you might be on, can be an incredibly attractive prospect. That said, the grass isn't always greener, and you shouldn't meet your heroes.
With how competitive the video game industry has become (especially among the biggest publishers, developers and the big three companies), powerful emphasis is put on the element of secrecy and the power of surprise. Microsoft needs to come out of left field with the next big innovation in online gaming. Sony needs to wow you with new IP announcements from established developers, and Nintendo needs to make the next Power Glove (they really, really need to).
To maintain this almost government like, black ops level covert mystique and protection, companies employ protocols and policies to enforce this hush hush-ness, keeping their workers under strict guidelines to ensure they help deliver the next big thing and keep it under wraps, no matter the arm or branch of the company they happen to work for.
The major players in the video game industry, Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo respectively, are all guilty of some weird, wonderful, and downright wrong rules and practices within their organizations. Nintendo, however, seem to have a cocktail of dichotomy, with some reporting immense employment satisfaction and others speaking of how it was a terrible professional experience. Ouch.
25 They Expect Permentant Loyalty (And Mold Young Employees In This Image)
Being a Japanese based company, honor and tradition are huge parts of Nintendo's ethos and general set of beliefs. Having been around since 1889, you can kind of see why they like to hang on to traditional values. Once you're part of the Nintendo family though, you're in it for life.
Speaking in an interview with Gamasutra, former Nintendo man of ten years Motoi Okamoto talks about many employees were hired at a young age and molded to be Nintendo people, with a deep discouraging towards leaving their family to join a rival like Sony or Microsoft.
24 Work Hard For Soft Pay
It would be wholly unfair to pin a problem like unfair pay compensation solely on a company like Nintendo, as this issue can pop up in any job in any company in the world. I believe it is important, however, to make potential employees aware of the fact that the company has been known to work people into the ground for little more than the minimum working wage.
A common theme among many employee reviews and a prevalent gripe at the contract and product testing level, people talk about the high work level, pressuring deadlines and poor pay they receive: "For $8 an hour, I was repairing complex electronic equipment...training technicians from Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina".
23 Bad Managers Ruin Everything (Just Like Any Other Job)
Nintendo has their fingers in a lot of pies and hands on a lot of mushrooms, so it's only natural that a day in the life of your average worker is made up of a great deal of constantly changing schedule commitments.
Many employees say their day is never the same, with some loving this set up as it "keeps them on their toes," with others citing the poor management communication as a barrier to achieving your goals.
A day can be made up of "phone calls, changing deadlines, meetings, expense reports, memos, travel..." to name but a few things.
22 11 pm Is "Mario Time"
Okay, so it might not be 11pm every night, but according to Okamoto, working into the twilight hours of the night is commonplace for anyone in the actual game design or creative division.
He recalls working with Miyamoto and his "incredible stamina" on Super Mario 64 DS: "Miyamoto would come to us at 11pm, after he finished all of his board-member work, and say, 'It's Mario time.' At that point, we'd start a planning meeting that would run until 2am."
After all that, Miyamoto would say "You should return home soon, for your health".
21 Work Hours Are Like School — You Can Only Leave When The Bell Rings
Talking in a separate interview with the website Source Gaming, Giles Goddard (a developer of Vitei Games who worked on past Nintendo projects in the 90s) spent time over in Japan working in Nintendo's headquarters and described the general flow of a day.
"Nintendo is a bit like a big school...You have bells throughout the day telling you exactly what you should be doing".
As much as this might seem peculiar to Western professionals, this is (apparently) a common element of Japanese work culture, but even in the country is viewed as out-dated and old-fashioned.
20 They've Changed — It's All Big Budget Games Now
There's a delicate balance that needs to be struck whenever any art is conceived, and that's the balance between creativity and economics. People moan that companies like EA churn out the same games every year, but its all decisions based on financial numbers that guide the artistry.
"I think Iwata-san had a very different vision for Nintendo."
Since Satoru Iwata's tragic passing in 2015, Nintendo has shifted its focus away from the innovative departments like R&D. AAA titles matter now more than ever, so a great deal of Nintendo's time and effort goes into those types of projects, and employees have to either work in accordance or face having their much smaller departments shut down.
19 Don't Expect A Promotion (It's Not Coming For At Least 5+ Years)
Perks like location, discounts, and job security are highly coveted factors that potential employees look for, especially in the current economic climate. In the world of Nintendo, these are hard things to come by, as they link in with its young hiring policy and leanings toward company loyalty and longevity.
Many Indeed reviews remark about how its next to impossible to advance your career if you start at one of the very bottom levels of the company, with management rarely leaving or even advancing themselves.
One review writes that any real kind of benefits don't come into effect until after 5+ years, with most of the "good ones" not coming until after ten years.
18 They Don't Care About Your Commute (Just Shut Up And Drive)
Commuting to work is like emptying the garbage; nobody wants to do it. If you live close enough to be able to walk to work, good for you. Some companies take their employees travel circumstances into consideration, whether that's by having on-site parking or public transport discounts. Nintendo offers some perks, but can be equally as harsh.
For drivers and couriers, shifts are often 10+ hours long with little to no thought about fuel costs or schedules.
One former employee lost their job after the company was told they were relocating their building and would have to either commute the four and a half hours, or quit.
17 Daily Paper Reports (Yes, Seriously — PAPER)
If someone asks you what you did in work today and your answer is anything other than "Umm, just, stuff...", you probably had a productive day. A response that like wouldn't cut it at Mario's alma matter, however.
Although more than likely a defunct practice today (or at least hopefully it is), Motoi Okamoto recalls first arriving at the company and being surprised at how old-fashioned it was.
"All employees had to submit a daily report on paper every day, in 1999, when each of us had a PC on our desk!"
16 In-House Competition
"Like the great warlord Oda Nobunaga, Yamauchi wanted his vassals to compete with each other. Nintendo once had three hardware development departments plus EAD. Each of these three departments had its own game development team, and Yamauchi made the leaders of these departments compete with each other."
"This resulted in successes like the Nintendo Entertainment System and Game Boy, but the departments never shared information with each other."
More of Okamoto's words show Nintendo's (and to a wider extent Japan's) competitive yet unorthodox methods of pitting its employees and departments against one another, with departmental information sharing pretty much banned.
15 Start Projects Early (Too Early)
Being organized and prepared can you serve you well in the undertaking of almost any task, and Nintendo like to be on top of all the main projects they oversee by starting nice and early. In most cases, too early.
This has a big effect on lower level employees and their contracts.
Alluded to in Goddard's interview and corroborated by a number of employment reviews, workers often complain that work is started well in advance and slumps in workloads with little or nothing to do at times, with contract workers often axed early because of this.
14 Secrecy Is Rampant (And It Definitely Goes Too Far)
As mentioned previously, privacy is a sacred commodity among not only video game companies, but practically all businesses, just more-so in companies pertaining to media. While all of the big three take this measure, Nintendo do whatever they can to ensure nothing gets out before they officially announce anything.
Goddard says "If Nintendo had it their way, people wouldn’t know the Front room existed"
Feedback on Indeed mentions how a great deal of employees cannot state anything specific about their roles as they were forced to sign Non-disclosure Agreements, even now they've left the company.
13 Meet The Deadlines Or Be Fired — It's That Simple For Nintendo
Working to a deadline is a uniform pressure in pretty much every job in the universe, whether you're Ronald McDonald or Noah. Arks have got to be built, and kids' parties need scary clowns with burgers.
Nintendo pile this pressure on massively, with smaller, third-party development studios or in-house departments forced to show constant and consistent progress on their projects. If they're not meeting with Nintendo's demands or realizing their potential fast enough, the projects are quickly shut down with little to no explanation to the workers.
12 Miyamoto Is Their Big Hitter (For Everything)
Hailed by practically everyone within the video game industry as one of the most innovative and influential people to work within the field, Shigeru Miyamoto's grandiose moniker of the God of Games comes at a cost of being the man almost solely responsible for producing Nintendo's biggest successes.
Further in the interview with Gamasutra, Okamoto talks about his working relationship Miyamoto, and how he was constantly expected to be churning out masterpieces with his team. Should he fail in this endeavor, critically or financially, he and pretty much he alone takes all the flak within the company.
11 When You Play The Game Of Mario, You Either Win Or You..
Unfortunately, this isn't as scarce an issue as it should be, but many employees speak about their time working at Nintendo of the West on Indeed reviews (mostly in Redmond, WA) and make complaints about management behavior, favoring other employees despite effort or workload, and promoting those they either liked or worked within the politically structured system.
The main featured review states: "Asking for additional work, taking on additional responsibilities does not provide you with promotions...you have to play political games and be in with the right people to succeed here, which is sad".
10 Very Very Corporate
Every company has a certain look and feel to it. It's impossible to avoid. In fact, it's something that should be sought after by a company, to have its ethics and morals reflected in both its employees work and its professional aesthetics. Being a conservative Japanese company, Nintendo adopts a rather clinical and pristine look to their offices and expect their employees to follow suit.
Again extracting from Giles Goddard's interview, he comments on how his studio is split into a "front" and "back" room; Nintendo rule the front house, he conducts his business in the back.
9 Show Up No Matter What
Most good, wholesome people go into work unless they're sick, or have a genuine reason as to why they can't make it. Those reasons could be a multitude of things, with personal circumstances being unique to everyone.
One review writes that while they enjoyed their time working at Nintendo of the West for the most part, they thought their points system (which I can only assume is a scheme related to performance) "could use a lot of work" and writes "I find it quite unfair for one to lose their job because their bus broke down."
8 You Have To Adjust To Their Needs — Or They'll Find Someone Who Will
Management hierarchy and staff levels are a tough balancing act to get right, and having the wrong type of people or the wrong amount of people at one particular level can end up leaving a project lopsided and near unmanageable.
Nintendo have a firm grip on their staffing levels, making cuts here, there, and everywhere necessary to achieve their goals, particularly when this comes to working with smaller third-party developers.
"You adjust to meet their needs" says Goddard. "Whatever you need to do for them, you do it".
7 Try And Try Again Until You Have A Game
Speaking from experience, working within a testing environment isn't a difficult task. It is, however, a mentally and physically taxing task, requiring you to bash your theoretical head against the wall to either decipher a problem or replicate an outcome, and it can be as satisfying as it is frustrating.
Goddard explains how this philosophy and methodology was applied to Nintendo's games in the past (and more than likely is still relevant today): "That’s how most of their games [are produced]…through intelligent trial and error. Then they try something similar but different".
6 Their Decision Is Final
While you can, in theory, bring about change on any level, whether you're the CEO or the four hour weekend warrior, the Nintendo presidency collective (along with any and all higher ups that control the flow of money) have the ultimate final say on anything that happens in the company, sometimes even down to the finest detail.
Since working with The Big N, Goddard has had to make changes to his team's work and do whatever may be necessary to keep his partners happy: "They have a [certain] structure they want. If they want more or less people, it happens. We very much match what they require."
5 Travel Like Crazy
Like I said earlier, commuting is breezy when it's easy.
While these reviews on Indeed should be taken with a pinch of salt, it's telling when the same complaints keep popping their head up from a variety of sources. While a collective of workers talk about their tough commute times, marketing, PR and customer interaction personnel apparently get the short end of the stick in this regard.
One review writes that they visited "over 100 stores" in one month, and another recounts how demo event appearances tie to bonuses: "You MUST work every one or your pay raise & bonus will be majorly slashed! You can even be fired for not doing enough demo events".
4 They Hire People With Maths And Physics Backgrounds
Surprisingly, if you want to be a game designer or similar role at Nintendo, you don't actually need to know that much about game design, or even programming or coding for that matter. At least that's not what Okamoto says.
"Nintendo did not look for game design expertise when it hired new graduates"
"...the company tried to increase the number of excellent new graduates with knowledge of mathematics and physics, a trend that continues today. As long as those new graduates had a solid knowledge of mathematics and physics, they didn't necessarily need to know programming."
3 It's The Same Problem Over And Over And Over
As far as Indeed makes it aware, this particular grievance applies more to the customer service department who handle calls from stores and private customers who require help either fixing or maintaining a Nintendo product.
A majority of the people that work within this department reference "repetitive customer service issues" and having to deal with the same people about the same problems day in, day out.
Others reference "monotonous daily tasks" that, compounded with lack of management interaction, can destroy most employees' spirits in a very short space of time.
2 Store Things At Your Home
Another one for the marketing department, Nintendo make full use of their employees by using them as mini storage warehouses, so make sure you've got some space in your spare room.
While the prospect of working for Nintendo sounds like a golden opportunity, it comes with its downsides (like everything does). Reviews state that some people struggled to cope with the items, parcels and merchandise sent to their home who then had to courier said items to their location for that day.
So if you're getting into Nintendo marketing, don't have an apartment on the 73rd floor.
1 Be Ready To Leave
The biggest preparation for any employee going into Nintendo is the apparent divide between their product testing division and, well, everyone else.
Numerous past employees mention the "two cultures" that exist between the offices and how they're treated differently.
The scariest element of being a contract worker is the speed at which you can be let go. One employee advises to "keep your desk sparse" and others say they aren't even given a days notice, with one happy customer saying he was fired as a Christmas present. Happy holidays.