Gaming Voice Actors Reach Tentative Agreement to End Strike

If the agreement is passed, it means more bonuses, additional money, and needed transparency about secret projects.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at
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I read the Ian Williams article (from Dec '16) which was helpfully linked at the beginning, to familiarise myself with the topic. This bit stuck out to me:

But perhaps no point has been as contentious as that of bonuses, and the framing of the issue is a key messaging battle. The studios claim that the union wants residuals, a word which has made its way into independent publications. Residuals are lifetime payments on work an actor has appeared in—Keythe Farley, national chair of the Interactive Negotiating Committee, laughingly explained that he still gets a small check every so often for an episode of Full House he did in the 90s.

SAG-AFTRA insists that they’re negotiating for bonuses, not residuals. Jones bristles at the suggestion that they’re asking for the latter.

There’s a lot of talk about residuals. We are not asking for residuals. We’re asking for bonus payments. It’s a different scope. For every two million units sold, up to eight million… so if Call of Duty goes on to sell 30 million units, which it has, we only ask for bonus payments on eight million of those sold. That’s really not a bad thing. But that’s where the developers, who are putting in crunch time, could see a change for themselves as well.”

The fight over language isn’t accidental. A debate centered around bonuses would be happening on familiar ground for devs. But a fight for residuals places the voice actors apart from the developers, since they may appear well beyond what game developers could ever hope for, given the culture differences. By insisting the fight is over residuals, whatever the truth, a wedge is created between voice actors and developers who might look to SAG-AFTRA as inspiration.

I return to Patrick’s article to see what the resolution is, and

Unfortunately, it does appear the voice actors failed to secure one of their big negotiating points: residuals. This would have allowed them to make money on a game, based on sales after release. The bonus structure appears to be a compromise, with the hope of extracting more concessions, whenever the next contract comes up. (I would put the odds of this happening at low, however.)

Was there a change? Did the union at say “Oh, uh, yeah, actually we do want residuals” at some point in the past 8 months?


Wish they were able to get those bonuses as originally outlined. What they’ll be getting is way lower.

Making one pop of money for your performance on a particular title is how it’s been, but for games that do very well, and the actors that make them shine, it would help out to be able to keep earning small sums to help with the time between gigs, since working contracts can be really rough. Let the larger, extremely profitable games lighten the load of these people doing a hard job for less pay than is probably deserved. I’m also a contractor and I try to mitigate this by negotiating to be able to sell my music work separate from the products it is for on my own site, for life. The bonuses would kind of be the actors’ version of that.

I felt the need to give some perspective because among gamers, devs and even some game journalists, the bonus payments have been the thing to get hung up on, the point to argue.

@hideokojima It was always bonuses afaik–maybe Patrick got caught up in the usage of residuals as well.

Here is the ideal distribution of bonuses in the contract as of October 2016, the copy I have:

With the new agreement, performers would be earning much less of a bonus per session, and their bonus would be getting capped at $2,100 after ten sessions (the original agreement had them making more back after only four, if the game sold well). The bonus payments also don’t seem to be based on game sales anymore, which I felt actually made them more reasonable for the companies. But maybe the companies are happier just whittling the union down to the smallest bonus amount than being liable to pay more after more sales.

It is certainly more than they were getting when they started the strike, I suppose.

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tl:dr of it, as far as I can figure, is the actors demanded residuals, but the companies made it very clear very early on that that would never be on the table, so they suggested additional one-time payments for multi-million copy sellers as a compromise.

After that, the question of whether residuals had ever been on the table will get you different answers depending on who (and on which side of the debate) you asked.

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There still some things that need improving but that is a big step.

This is ultimately where I come down on this (in agreement with metalsnakezero). This isn’t great, but negotiating a win out of the industry is positive and, as ever, shows the power of a united labour front. Hopefully this isn’t a barrier to further action. I have no ideas about the internals of SAG-AFTRA politics, but (as seemed to be the case with Life is Strange: Before the Storm, where Burch served as a writing consultant instead of voice acting), there does seem to be some people skirting around the edges of the strike to continue to work on games indirectly.

However, my “hopefully” is a fairly large caveat and, as Klepek said on Twitter, voice actors only have so much leverage over their employers.

Of course, all this is, from me, a fairly narrow ‘strategic’ reading of the situation and I don’t have much more to offer beyond that. A somewhat superficial reading from me, potentially.

I think the coming years we’ll see them build the policies up so that they do get those benefits and maybe this will leak into other aspects of games development to gain policies for better pay or smoother working conditions. Not everything can come at once but building things up for the better can help.