Nintendo Fires Employee For Speaking On Podcast

Nintendo Fires Employee For Speaking On Podcast

Last week, Nintendo localisation editor Chris Pranger made an appearance on a small podcast called Part-Time Gamers. This week, Nintendo fired him.

"Hello friends and family," Pranger wrote in a long, heartbreaking Facebook message this morning. "As many of you have probably seen, I am no longer at Nintendo. I was terminated this week due to a podcast appearance I made last Monday. It was a stupid judgment call on my part and ultimately it cost me far more than I could have imagined."

On August 3, the Part-Time Gamers podcast posted their interview with Pranger, who spoke candidly about his work in Nintendo's secretive Treehouse, where the company translates and localises software from Japanese to English and other languages. In the following days, a number of Nintendo fan-sites and other message boards picked up on the interview, posting a whole lot of excerpts they found interesting. GoNintendo, for example, reported on Pranger defending the Wii U's name and talking about how passionate Smash Bros. designer Masahiro Sakurai can be.

Although the podcast didn't draw a ton of mainstream attention, fans found it fascinating because it has become so rare to hear Nintendo employees speak about the company without specific PR approval. Nintendo, like most Japanese video game companies, tends to prohibit its staff from speaking to the public about its inner workings unless they are given explicit approval from their communications teams both in the U.S. and Japan.

As it turns out, even a handful of seemingly innocuous comments can lead Nintendo to fire an employee. "I spent the last week in a miserable place once the podcast began getting coverage," Pranger said on Facebook. "I was instantly scared when a coworker poked me and said, 'Hey, you're on GoNintendo.' Suddenly article after article began appearing in game sites of all languages. Comments sections painted me as an idiot and the like. My Twitter started giving me hourly reminders from people meaning well and otherwise. It seemed unthinkable that I'd be let go for a single moment of poor judgment and my own misunderstandings, but here we are."

Last Thursday, a NeoGAF poster transcribed one particular section of Pranger's podcast comments that angered a few fans. He had poked fun at people who say things like "Why do you hate money, Nintendo?" while asking the company to localise niche games, pointing out that games like Xenoblade don't often sell enough to justify expensive voice acting and other production costs.

It's not clear exactly which parts of the podcast led Nintendo to fire Pranger — and Pranger declined to comment when I reached out to him this afternoon — but he didn't talk about any unannounced games or other information that might be considered sensitive to an outside observer. Nintendo did not return requests for comment.

"I look around my house and see images of my son and feel such intense shame and crippling sadness," Pranger wrote on Facebook. "I know that if I can't find a job at least as good as this one, I won't be able to provide for my family I've lost them their health coverage and their security. I also know that I've probably lost a good deal of my friends, just because I know how hard it can be to stay in touch with someone when the convenience of proximity is lost. I'm so sorry to everyone. I've failed you. You believed in me and supported me and trusted me and I've failed you. I've failed me."

Top image: Sentavio/Shutterstock


    Ouch, that's super harsh. I hoped Nintendo making their treehouse more and more prominent at E3 and other events meant something like this would never happen.

    On the one hand I sympathise with anyone who loses their job as I've been there myself a few times (involuntarily, not through my own actions). On the other hand though, for him to be terminated for it probably means that there was some contractual breach that was grounds for termination he should have been more conscious of. It's hard to say with just this whether it's just a case of someone making a foolish mistake or a company that's overly protective of its secrecy.

      It seems pretty damned extreme for them to fire him. That said, he did mention a few times while doing "No Right Answer" that he wasn't allowed to talk about games or Nintendo in public. He actually stopped participating in their game-related debates because of his job. So it does seem strange that he would have gone on this podcast and done exactly that.

        Most companies require that you get approval before appearing in the media, it sounds like the tug of a little bit of cool-factor/fame brought him undone.
        Really, really harsh, but not at all unusual for any company. I guess some people are thinking they are owed their 15 minutes of fame and don't think before tweeting/posting/podcasting.

        Last edited 14/08/15 11:07 am

          Dude, you don't have to call into people's intentions. Simply because someone speaks - someone tries to cut them down unnecessarily with stuff like *they think they are owed their 15 minutes*. There's this wierd casual resentment going around with people finding excuses to justify judgement in anyone who upsets the media status quo. This has happened before but i can't remember it happening with seemingly so little provocation or cause, kind of means people will question it with a discussion about transparency and others will sabotage him and his character because he broke a rule that upsets the statis quo despite the punishment being questionable.

        It seems extreme because hey it's video games but pretty much every company I've worked for has very specific rules about not broadcasting the inner workings of that company - either to the media or even social media.

          Gaming: The tug of war between business and art continues.

          Or rather, not so much a tug of war as much as artists forgetting they're in business, not art, and getting smacked down by business for it.

          The industry is much worse off for this corporate-first attitude.

    Sadly I don't think this should be particularly surprising. I think most companies have pretty strict rules regarding appearing in or speaking to media and while this guy might have had the best of intentions and done nothing but promote positive buzz for the company, if he "spoke out of turn" without approval than Nintendo is well within their rights to enact disciplinary action, up to and including termination.

    Sad but those are the facts. I work for an insurance company and the chances of anyone caring about my opinion on anything are slim, but everyone is regularly reminded that any media contact goes through our marketing team in case we happen to be approached.

    dont bit the hand that feeds you. Dont break your NDA. Don't talk shit about your company in a public forum.

    That shit will get you fired.

    No sympathy here.

      I didn't know you worked for the Liberal party rethilgore.

      A silly part of contractual argeements to stop people from whistleblowing.

      But I do agree he should of known that this would happen, strange.

      He wasn't talking shit about his company, he was defending it.

      Whenever this happens, (someone upsets some guy's arbitrary criteria for morality) there's always someone who thinks their sympathy is worth something - like other people are waiting on their sympathy. These people have no idea that everyone else is bemused by their insecure, feeble, transparent attempts at posturing.

    Sounds like a pretty massive over-reaction unless he's said something inflammatory against the company.

    That said it's considerably easier to feel sympathy for a corporation than it is for a person who lost his job without any clear correlation between cause and effect. I'm glad Nintendo decided to shut this guy down, sick of people thinking they can do whatever they want when working for a company.

      Not sure this really qualifies as "whatever they want". You know that phrase could include a lot more stuff than simply promoting his company on a tiny podcast. I've worked for a large production company before and whilst there were restrictions, we were allowed to do podcasts, radio interviews etc. with clearly defined boundaries. Many other employees of other Japanese game companies have gone on podcasts before and easily revealed more or similar information without incident. This wierd attitude of defending corporations and pretending the intentions of whomever you don't like are somehow nefarious and evil is so ignorant and irresponsible and entirely based on people's belief that following rules is a barometer of worth despite not having the courage to speak up when they're ridiculous. This incident could raise a whole load of questions but everyone is interested in affirming their own prejudice and ignorance instead. I think i may underestimate how scared people get when the status quo of simply doing anything a larger entity tells them to do, regardless of its efficacy or legitimacy.

        See this is the thing, on one hand you are saying how wrong it is for everyone to make judgements about this guy, based on their own moral standards, yet you are making moral judgements on the commenters here, saying they are scared and without courage.

        When you take a job, it comes with rules and guidelines, speaking to the media while in your job is usually pretty clearly laid out that it is a no-no, that is part of taking the job. If you don't agree with it, then internally you try to make the argument for it and get policy changed. If you just go ahead and talk to the media anyway, that is up to you, but you do it knowing that it will possibly end up with you being fired. If one is okauy with that, then it is fine. You can't just do whatever you like in a job, there are boundaries and if you choose to step outside them, then sure, go for it, but you know it might cost you.

        I feel really, really bad for the guy, but I also think he was pretty gormless if he thought he could break the media policy on a company and not have it bite him on the bum.

    That last paragraph is heartbreaking. Lesson learned, for sure.

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