A Nintendo employee has lost his job after criticizing several elements of his role as part of the company’s notoriously secretive Treehouse division. Chris Pranger, who spent three years at Treehouse, which translates and localizes software from Japanese to English and other languages, appeared on the Part-Time Gamers podcast and spoke candidly about the financial strain of translating games, as well as insight into the job from Smash Bros. designer Masahiro Sakurai.
“They just say the classic, ‘Why do you hate money? Why do you hate money, Nintendo?'” Pranger said on the podcast, imitating stereotypical video game fans. “And it’s like, ‘What are you talking about?’ They bring out games that are very Japanese like Captain Rainbow for instance.”
“They’ll bring that up as, ‘Look how many people want this. Don’t you want money?'” Pranger continued. And we’ll say, ‘Yeah, we want money, that’s why we know it’s a huge waste if we ever try to locate that [game] in this current market, because look at you people. You don’t form a big enough group.'”
While the podcast didn’t initially attract much press attention, quotes from the interview soon found their way onto specialist Nintendo fan sites, as well as the infamous games forum NeoGAF. Such a candid speech from a Nintendo employee is rare, with the company tending to err on the side of caution, prohibiting staff from speaking publicly unless given explicit permission.
Pranger also discussed Xenoblade Chronicles, Monolith Soft’s critically acclaimed role-playing game that has since been re-released on 3DS and spawned a Wii U sequel. When the game was first released in Japan, it was questionable if it would ever get an international release. A fan campaign followed, with Nintendo of Europe eventually releasing a translated version of the game.
“You’re looking at something like even Xenoblade Chronicles‘ said Pranger. “People like that game, you know, within a certain group. That game isn’t the type of game that just pulls in enough to justify its cost.”
“So that’s like we got it in the United States by luck, that [Nintendo of Europe] decided, ‘Oh, we’ll take the fall. We’re going to locate that.’ Okay, because somebody’s going to have to eat the cost somewhere, because that game is guaranteed not to sell enough to justify how big that game is,” Pranger continued. “You know, hundreds of hours, all recorded. That’s a lot of money going into that… and people say, ‘Why do you hate money?’ We do not. That’s why you literally can’t make everything. And people don’t like finding out that their fan base is actually too small to justify the cost of the thing they want.”
Shortly after his comments spread across the web, Pranger announced via Twitter that he had been released by Nintendo. This was quickly followed by a Facebook post, reflecting on Nintendo’s decision.
“Hello friends and family. As many of you have probably seen, I am no longer with Nintendo. I was fired this week due to a podcast appearance I made last Monday. It was a stupid judgment on my part and in the end it got me cost much more than I could have imagined.
I spent the past week in a miserable place as the podcast started getting coverage. I was immediately shocked when a co-worker poked me and said, “Hey, you’re on GoNintendo.” Suddenly article after article appeared on game sites in all languages. Comment sections painted me as an idiot and such. My Twitter started giving me hourly reminders from people who mean well and otherwise. It seemed inconceivable that I would be let go because of a single moment of poor judgment and my own misunderstandings, but here we are.
I’m so sorry for everyone. I failed you. You believed in me and supported me and trusted me and I failed you. I’ve let myself down.”
Nintendo issued a brief statement following Pranger’s firing: “We have no comment on this subject other than to wish Chris the best in his future endeavors.”