Nintendo of Korea has laid off 80% of their total staff, a move that’s been in the works since early January of this year, as reported on Korean News site Naver. While Hiroyuki Fukuda is staying on as CEO, Naver reports the company is down to 10 employees from 60, which is down from 100 following a previous round of layoffs in 2011. This is following a string of financial losses over the past four years including roughly $25 million in 2011 and $22 million in 2012, with smaller but still significant losses leading into 2014.
The move is being referred to as a “large-scale restructuring” as they shift from a subsidiary to a distributor, with plans to relocate to a new office outside of capital city Seoul. The restructuring is in addition to previous self-imposed pay cuts by Nintendo corporate heads in effort to maintain moral and stay layoffs, such as president Satoru Iwata’s 50% cut last year and board of directors members Shigeru Miyamoto and Genyo Takeda’s 20-30% cut, and the introduction of an early retirement program to help reduce overhead.
Media speculation about the reason for the company’s dwindling popularity in includes the boom in eSports popularity from games like DOTA 2, League of Legends and StarCraft, shifting focus away from Nintendo culture. Further, the Wii U was never released in Korea, relegating them to the sales of older generation models Wii and 3DS even as their next-gen brother begins to dominate the market share of new releases. While the Wii and 3DS remain popular, both consoles were region-locked, further distancing themselves from the greater portion of the console library. There has been no official word from Nintendo outside of the restructuring decision being made due to the “business environment”.
The layoffs and restructuring reportedly do not affect the status of upcoming releases such as Hyrule Warriors: Legends, Fire Emblem: Fates, and Pokemon Sun/Moon, which are still scheduled for localization this year.