JOB SEARCH / JUN. 02, 2015
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What It's Like to Work for Nintendo

If you are unfamiliar with the gaming company Nintendo, then shame on you! If you’re a member of Gen X, Gen Y or a Millennial (as those two previous generations have been masterfully rebranded), then one of the two famous Nintendo consoles served as a third parent to you and Super Mario was like an Uncle. For the rest of you that are unfamiliar with Nintendo (hiss!), let me give you a concise background.

Appropriately, the name translates from Japanese as “leave luck to heaven”. Nintendo has been making games for 125 years: it was founded in 1889, and initially made playing cards and toys. It also launched a chain of “love hotels”, sold instant rice, and even owned a TV network. In the late seventies, Nintendo started creating “Color TV Games” and arcade games. Nintendo released the Nintendo Entertainment System in the U.S. in 1985, actually bringing back the gaming industry from the brink of destruction succeeding the 1983 video game crash, and became the bestselling console of that time (with over 500 million hardware units sold globally).

Because of this, the company today has a colossal market value north of $85 billion. It has so much money that it could function with consistent loses of $250 million per year for 40 years before it had to shut its doors. And if that’s not job security, I don’t know what is, but what would it be like to work for a company that is famous for producing joyful, colorful entertainment?

See Also: Is the Gaming Industry Finally Bigger than the Film Industry?

Friendly and Fun

One thing that keeps coming up again and again is how helpful, friendly and amicable relationships in Nintendo are. No matter how scathing the review, it seemed like the majority spoke about a work environment that felt like a huge family than a hyper-competitive workplace. And, undoubtedly, the amenities include multiple consoles free for all employees to play! It would be pretty ironic if the company that’s motto is “We make products that make people smile” was a horribly bleak corporate cubicle farm.

Family Environment

Not only are Nintendo’s facilities amazing, with onsite gyms, soccer fields, basketball and tennis courts, a break room, cafeteria and themed café (which is called Café Mario), but the benefits are comparable or even better than most game companies, too (you don’t get paid in gold coins but you win some, you lose some). Some of the coolest U.S. headquarters’ features are: a gold certified eco-friendly building with automatic light dimming, a roof covered with grass, and renewable bamboo walkways to each floor. Each floor of the building has Nintendo-themed everything, including a huge bronze Mario statue, the Mario Café and employee parking that is painted like the Mario Kart game and, of course, a Nintendo Museum/ Store which is the only place in the world you can buy Nintendo shot glasses and workout clothes. It’s every fan/boy’s dream.

The Bad?

OK, so you’re not the doe-eyed youth that used to plop down in front of the TV during hour-long sessions of Super Mario Bros. 3. You know that not all that glitters is gold (even if it makes a ‘ping’ sound), and you know that working at Nintendo has to have some cons to its innumerable pros. Firstly the U.S. headquarters, administration, marketing and upper tiers of management are heavily regulated by Nintendo Japan. Many former employees also talk about the lack of mobility and in their exact words: “someone has to retire or die for a promotion to open.” Overall, though, that’s characteristic of many companies and not exclusive to Nintendo. Also, keep in mind that most employees report loving the time they were employed there and only mentioned their gripes because they were asked to mention something less than positive.

The Application Processes Is Harder Than Ninja Gaiden

If you have never played the classic ballbreaker Ninja Gaiden, consider yourself happily undamaged. This game is so teeth-gnashing-ly, bowel-twisting hard that very few people that have owned it (for almost 25 years) and actually finished it. Well, the application process for applying to NES Japan is just as difficult. You have to sign up (fair enough), and then you have to go to an “optional”, yet at the same time obligatory, company seminar held a few times a year in Osaka and Kyoto, Japan. During this seminar, you will have to answer an “optional” (see mandatory, if you want to have a chance in hell) questionnaire, then engage in a group discussion with two current employees which you have to make an impression amongst the 12-15 people in the group within 30 seconds. After that, you have to print out a two-page (front and back) PDF form, fill it out by hand (carefully), and send it via mail to the Nintendo HQ. Then you wait to hear back from HR, right? Wrong. Once you pass, you have to take an online test that has you write ten – yes, ten – one-page essays followed by three to five questions each in 20 minutes, ten math questions in 20 minutes, and ten one-page essays in English also followed by three to five questions each in 20 minutes. And then you wait? Nope, try again! If you pass the online test, then you’re called to go through an on-site gauntlet specific to the job you want. The engineer that explaining the process (as he screamed due to PTSD, I assume) wrote that his questions were general programming questions, Fermi Estimation, and yet another short essay related to current affairs. If you are one out of eight that passed, then you have to go to the final stage. Yes, yes there’s more; there always is (it’s like you’ve never played a Nintendo title in your life). Then you get the chance to talk to an HR officer, the Head of the HR department, and finally a (very intimidating, I assume) high-ranking member of administration. To add to this pants-crapping-ly high stakes game, the aforementioned member of upper management is probably going to be the head of the department that you will be placed in.

See Also: The Business of Indie Game Development

Do you know anything else about working for Nintendo that you might want to add? Let me know in the comment section below.

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