Not long after the final round of negotiations between the SAG-AFTRA union and several game publishers failed to produce anything significant, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists has officially gone on strike in protest of how gaming publishers are handling voice acting contracts and performances as a whole.
As we mentioned earlier this week, the strike could have a significant impact on several games that are currently in production. Since many large companies like Electronic Arts, Take-Two Interactive, Activision, and Warner Bros. Interactive are included on the strike mandate, it means any games of those companies that went into production after February 17, 2015 are in jeopardy of facing delays due to the strike, which is something that certainly warrants attention.
Here’s what the union had to say about the official strike notice which went live October 21, a deadline which set in advance by the union:
Our negotiations for a successor to the Interactive Media Agreement have been going on for nearly two years. We have consistently conveyed to management both how serious we are about achieving these important aims for our members and our willingness to come to a reasonable deal. While we are disappointed that management’s intransigence has forced to make this difficult choice, we remain available to bargain and continue to seek a fair and reasonable conclusion to this negotiation.
The union is pushing hard for several improvements to the existing agreement, including an all new residual agreement which would guarantee voice actors residual income for games which incur certain amounts of revenue, so that voice actors get a certain percentage of massively successful games as opposed to a finite amount. The union is also demanding that gaming publishers inform voice actors about what game they are auditioning for and provide details about the character. Studios typically keep these details on a need-to-know basis to prevent leaks. The union also wants special pay orders for stressful voice acting — grunts, death noises, and yelling — along with the presence of stunt coordinators present anytime stunt work goes into place.
In turn, the gaming publishers have insisted that they’ve been negotiating in good faith with SAG-AFTRA, and even mentioned that the union had broken a mutually-agreed upon “media blackout” to prevent news of the waning negotiations from reaching the press. A lawyer representing the gaming publishers also called the union’s demands precipitous and unnecessary, so it doesn’t take one much effort to imagine that this strike looks like it may last for a long duration.
According to the aforementioned lawyer, SAG-AFTRA represents performers who worked on less than 25% of the video games currently on the market, so it will be interesting to see how things play out. While it’s possible that the strike can be resolved quickly, and hopefully without the need of arbitration (which is when a third impartial party makes concessions and agreements when neither side makes any progress), strikes can also last for quite some time, and gamers are the real losers of this disagreement.
At the end of the day, this strike means that gamers may be left waiting for titles they had hoped to play in certain release windows, potentially putting them in development hell, and this could have a large impact on the video game industry as a whole. We will keep you posted as more news comes out about the SAG-AFTRA strike.