Nintendo is known for marching to the beat of its own drum, and it is a blessing and a curse. Nobody could achieve the things Nintendo has achieved, but also nobody could pull off some of the baffling blunders Nintendo has made either. Now we have a new anecdote about just how strange a company Nintendo once was, via a 20th anniversary retrospective and pseudo-oral history of GameCube from VGC. According to Perrin Kaplan, Nintendo of America VP of marketing and corporate affairs from 1992 to 2008 (now co-founder of marketing firm Zebra Partners), Nintendo used to scrutinize people’s birth date during the hiring process — and an unlucky birth date meant you weren’t hired.
This was during the reign of former Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi, who essentially ruled with an iron fist and whose final decisions could not be challenged. Kaplan explained the following about Nintendo culture in the ’90s, including checking for an unlucky birth date during hiring, and also the significance of feng shui philosophy:
It was a different time… For example, I do remember that all of our birth dates were examined before we were hired in the 90s. They’d look at your birthday and if you had one that was considered unlucky, you wouldn’t have gotten hired, even though we worked in America.
It was also a very Feng Shui company… and it still is. The new NCL building was built that way. At Nintendo of America we were going to expand into the buildings of another company called Eddie Bauer, and the buildings were angled. We walked over there with Mr. [Satoru] Iwata and Mr. [Minoru] Arakawa, they examined the buildings and even looked into the direction the water was flowing underneath, and then that building was deemed a big no.
Later on, Nintendo of America was remodeled such that it was facing the “right way” and “built the right way – for luck.”
Of course, some things at Nintendo began to change once the more personable Satoru Iwata took control of the company following Hiroshi Yamauchi’s retirement in 2002, and it can be safely assumed that birth date — lucky or unlucky — does not factor into hiring anymore.