Nintendo discusses how they handle the game development crunch

Anyone who follows the game industry knows about the crunch developers go through. The squeeze time when devs are working their butts off to get a game out by its release date. Long hours are worked, devs get less sleep, and it's a stressful time for everyone involved. Vice wanted to talk to various game companies about how they handle crunch, which is what this interview snippet with Nintendo's Reggie Fils-Aime focuses on.


V: How is Nintendo committed—and what are you doing now to—to ensure that there is good work-life balance and fair conditions across first party title development, your executive level, your support roles—the stuff happening at Nintendo and hopefully even at close partners? How are you combating an industry wide relationship to crunch that can often be deeply unhealthy.

Fils-Aimé: So look, I can only answer this question from Nintendo of America perspective and for us, crunch happens differently. It's not a development crunch, but it could be a bug check crunch. Or it's a crunch in preparing for an event. Or a crunch in preparing a game to pass our lot check process. Our approach is this: We flex through the use of contract employees. We flex in the way we work with our agency partners. Our mentality is we're going to flex by adding headcount as appropriate to help us get over a crunch. That's the way we approach it.

V: Does that mean bringing on more employees so that work hours don't become extensive?

Fils-Aimé: That's correct.

V: And you have examples of doing that recently? That's just the normal strategy?

Fils-Aimé: That's is our course of business. That's the way we operate. And so we're not asking people to go for a couple days without sleep. We're not asking people to ignore their family and friends and their social life. We're not asking people to do things that are unhealthy. That is not our approach.

V: Do you think that there is as Nintendo, as a platform holder, some ability that... You know, Nintendo can't fix the world, I understand that, but as a platform holder, some ability to attempt to address this industry-wide problem?

Fils-Aimé: Well, again, I believe the best way to lead the is through example. And so what we do is reinforce with the way we encourage our business partners to act with the way that we encourage, if you will, the community that we touch.

And it's not only on work life balance. It's issues like diversity and inclusion. You know, with all of those tough conversations our mentality is that we're going to model the behavior that we want seen. So that's why I have a diverse senior management team. That's why as a black man leading a Japanese company, I feel good about the things that we do to deal with higher order issues and to deal with them in a way that models positive behavior.

Categories: Interviews
Tags: reggie


Reggie is the best, man. This is all I have to say on this matter, thank you.

Mon Jul 09 18 03:56pm
Rating: 1

That's a weird subject to ask a Japanese company about. Reggie handled it well focusing on the NA side of things.

Mon Jul 09 18 04:57pm
Rating: 1

Wait, Reggie's black?

I mean...... you have seen the man, right?

His parents are both Haitian. He just happens to be light skinned.

Hearing this now, that very much explains his french last name.

Pssst, lets not tell him that the company he runs is actually American....
Or is he admitting that Nintendo Japan has all the power....

Considering Nintendo's bread and butter is their consoles and first party games, I think it's safe to say NCL holds most of the cards.

NoA likely has to deal with the cards they're dealt regarding to localization and marketing. But between the size of the American market, E3, and the indie gaming scene, that likely allows them some pull. Along with likely being the middle man for Western 2nd Party devs like Next Level Games and Retro Studio.

I 100% agree, minus the "second party" part since there isn't such thing (Retro is first party, Next Level is third party). But other than that, yes.

He was asked about crunch during game development at Nintendo. NOA does not do game development outside of QA and localization, so it makes sense for him to clarify this.

Oh sure, I was commenting on him saying he was the president of a Japanese company.

Ah, I see what you mean. That does make it sound a bit weird indeed.

NoA is just a subsidiary of Nintendo Co. Ltd.
NoA and NoE are still both technically Japanese companies.

Sure... but he isn't the PRESIDENT of said Japanese company that owns them.

Also NoA is incorporated in the US so it is American, not Japanese.

They can have multiple presidents. I work for a company that has a CEO and trades independently on the stock exchange, but is owned by a larger company with its own CEO and own stock ticker.

But in this scenario he would be the president of Nintendo America, an American corporation which is a subsidiary of NCL, a Japanese "corporation" (the Japanese equivalent) whose president is Furukawa.

Didn't reggie make the argument he works 16h a day during the showmatch against hbox? , kinda interesting in regards to this interview!

That IS a nice philosophy. If the project is too big, get ore people on it. But is the Japanese department as chill as that?

I highly doubt that. Japan has a very different work culture.

We know studios like Monolithsoft are, I could see NoJ being worse than NoA but the vibe I get is that they are better than most Japanese developers, mainly because they are a console maker so they have the ability to...

I don't know why people just blatantly say that work crunch is unavoidable. If crunching happens, it's due to poor management and nothing else.

I like how NoA addresses this. At least it's not exaggerated to those high amounts of hours.

I'd like this man to ask the same question to Japan Nintendo actually. Since Japan is known to basically kill people at work like it's a perfectly normal thing to do. And since work ethics are becoming a world wide topic.

I'd like to see a comparison between various Japanese game companies..

I never understood the crunch logic anyways. My experience is that every time someone is forced to work long hours the quality drops dramatically while the rate of mistakes is rising which leads to a lost of time in the end. Their are also several studies who claim that (IT) companies who reduced their working hour ended up getting more work done.

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