Nintendo might soon be facing some public scrutiny after the Chinese news sites Sina and Games QQ alleged that the new Wii U system had been being manufactured by underage workers. Apparently, the Foxconn factory in Yantai has been offering “internships” to underage children that amounted to little more than factory work. These children are doing the same work that ordinary laborers are doing and are facing the same harsh hours with overtime and night shifts. Students were told they can leave the internship if they want, but if they asked to do so they were threatened by their teachers. While it is uncertain whether or not these underage workers were assembling the Wii U, Chinese sources assert that they were.
As a die-hard Nintendo fan (I’ve been playing since before I could talk), I find this really disappointing. Last year, Nintendo released the next iteration of their handheld gaming device, the 3DS. A technological marvel, it provides 3D images without the need for special glasses. However, due to a lack of strong launch titles and online services, expectations were shattered. Sales of the product ended up being a fraction of the original prediction. To boost sales, Nintendo decided to cut the price of the system by $80. Most companies would offset this by laying off workers, but Nintendo’s solution was to have top executives, most notably CEO Satoru Iwata and Mario (and Zelda)-creator Shigeru Miyamoto, take large pay cuts. When I say large, I mean 50% cuts. When I first learned of this last year, my respect for the company skyrocketed. However, now that I’ve learned of this likely debacle, my admiration is a bit more grounded.
I suppose one could argue that Nintendo didn’t tell Foxconn to hire underage workers, but the fact that this happened in the first place is truly saddening. It is Nintendo’s responsibility to ensure the behavior of its suppliers is ethically sound. What do you think of this? Is Nintendo still an ethical company or has it become too profit-oriented? Am I drawing too much from this?
UPDATE: Nintendo has released a statement regarding the allegations:
“Nintendo is in communication with Foxconn and is investigating the matter. We take our responsibilities as a global company very seriously and are committed to an ethical policy on sourcing, manufacture and labor.”