Who's To Blame For Slave Labour-Made Game Consoles: Gamers Or Game Companies?

Last month, when I got my hands on the PS Vita, the first thing I did was open the box. The second? Flipped over the device to see where it was made.

China.

It wasn't always that way. Heck, it wasn't even that way until fairly recently.

For years, Nintendo made its consoles in Japan, thanks to the hard work of nice ladies and robots. Now it doesn't. It makes them in China.

Microsoft also makes the Xbox 360 in China.

There's nothing wrong with making things in China. There is something wrong about making products in an environment that apparently results in suicide threats as a collective bargaining tool.

"Slave labour" is a word tossed around loosely. And factory workers in China are free to work wherever — or are they? If yesterday's report that 300 Foxconn works were forced to negotiate by threatening group suicide is true, the term slave labour isn't being used loosely. It's fitting.

When the PS3 first launched in 2006, the initial consoles were made in Japan, leading to some gamers, in both Japan and the West, to point this out. The console is no longer made domestically.

"In general, the cost of manufacturing is cheaper in China," Sony's Shuhei Yoshida told Kotaku in 2010. Some items, however, might be "too complex" to do outside of Japan, said Yoshida at the time. "But if it's not so complex, it can be made in China at a lower cost."

The Made in Japan versus Made in China is not necessarily a quality issue. Chinese factories are staffed with talented people and high tech robots. Rather, it's an issue of whether or not the person who made the console is being treated fairly — or must negotiate by threatening to kill him or herself.

Make no mistake; with the Japanese yen at historic highs, making products in Japan is expensive. But the dollar is relatively cheap, and if, for example, Nissan can make engine parts for Mercedes Benz in Tennessee, then why can't Sony, Nintendo, or more importantly, Microsoft do the same for game consoles?


Comments

    How could a gamer be to blame?

    Lumped in that demographic of Foxconn made products is also Samsung and Apple. Are the combined customer base of those two companies to blame too?

    Socio-economics aren't usually something that customers pay attention to as they feel loyalty to the brand. To think that the conditions aren't poor in Foxconn would be naive, however to heap the ethical responsibility onto the consumer isn't exactly fair. Look at China in general and say (honestly) that the working conditions aren't generally poor there in other industries too...

    The mass suicide was nearly a huge tragedy but the aim was to generate publicity. Those poor workers were left with little recourse. But that does not make us the bad guys.

    My opinion only and I don't at all mean to seem callous or harsh.

      Absolutely gamers can be held partly accountable, just as those people who use other products that are made at least partially by Foxconn are also.

      When a company overprices a product, you are responsible for that if you decide to purchase it anyway. If a company has ambiguous moral values, or is downright amoral, then a purchase of that product is a vote for that system of doing things.

      We haven't even got started on the whole notion of these thing being the main contributor to how China is fast becoming the works next superpower etc. But jobs that used to be domestic based that go overseas, or even big companies that hold governments to ransom with the threat of doing so... We will only see more of this in the future.

        I can see your argument holding if we were being given the choice of, say, an expensive american-made console, or a cheap chinese-made console, but we aren't. We have no say in the matter.

          Also. Yes. I think consumers have he ability to positively affect where these products are made by buying more expensive versions of a product made in better conditions.

          If the option was there, consumers would have a moral weight.

          If the option is not there (NOT buying is not an option for a consumer, fact. They are called that because they consume) then consumers have no moral weight.

          NINTY SONY AND MS need to create consoles in fair work conditions and market them as such!

        I agree. The responsibility lies with the company exploiting the workers. And secondly, the country (China) for not regulating it's minimum wage and workers rights.

        Consumer cannot be expected to bear a moral weight, as society makes it damn near impossible to live a day avoiding everything made in china.

          The problem is that more expensive consoles doesn't necessarily translate to better working conditions for the lowest link in the food chain. It's not as though the current prices, barely manage to cover the cheapest possible labour and leave the producers 1 penny of profit.

          Some game companies already have profits that rival the income of small nations and if they increased the price of their machines, you seriously would have to wonder how much of that increase would actually end in the hands of the workers and not in the pockets of the higher or medium management.

    Could someone tell me, quantitatively, what the difference in cost would be for, say, an Xbox360 manufactured in China, and one manufactured in the US?

      Well this articule if about the Ipad but you get the idea.
      http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/05/how-much-would-the-ipad-2-cost-if-it-were-made-in-the-us-about-1-140/238508/

    Minimum wage is to blame, when our countries wont share it's weight in low end jobs. We force them overseas to a country who will take them on.

      "minimum wage is to blame"
      Welp, now I've heard it all.

        and are you going to rebut it? I gave you a reason why it does but all you do is sit there and give a snide response.

        What about my comment that you think is undeniable wrong? if it is wrong, you must have an answer. Otherwise you just sound like a fool.

          Well, prior to the suicides at the iPhone plant, Foxconn workers earned about $140 per month. Even if you take away the minimum wage, nobody would work for that amount of money given Australia's high cost of living. The labour cost of an iPhone makes up just over 1% of its selling price so it's not like they can't afford to pay these people fairly.

            "Foxconn workers earned about $140 per month. Even if you take away the minimum wage, nobody would work for that amount of money given Australia’s high cost of living."

            One of the reasons why Australia has a 'high cost of living' is because of minium wage. if everyone who works in Australia is expected a certain amount of money (even that kid on the register who is impolite). What happens to the money?

    I would pay more for a product produced ethically.

      +1 but that makes us a minority. The economic factors that go into pricing are too complicated for simply paying more to help anyone out. Not to mention the company and not the employee would be the one benefiting.

      Yay capitalism.

      How much more are you willing to pay? what's your set price on ethics?

    It's frustrating because there are no answers.

    Hell if you eat chocolate, drink coffee or any caffeinated product, or buy one of a thousand different products you'r contributing to slave labour or child slavery in some form of another. You do the research and discover that slavery and exploitation never went away at the turn of the century, it just changed addresses.

    Trying to do something about it is monumentally difficult and it's going to take some major international economic changes to fix things, and a lot of sacrifice but we the privileged nations, which it's not realistic to expect from us.

    But finding someone to blame is probably the least productive thing we could be doing.

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