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Strike Looms: Actors & Gamers Break Off Talks

The Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists have broken off talks with the videogame industry, which makes a strike likely, reports the trades. No agreement was reached on May 13, 2005 the last day the current contract extension which was one more extension than the actors said they would concede to. Even though a caucus of SAG and AFTRA must meet to decide if there will be a strike, insiders say it is curtain.

The unions are seeking some form of residual payments, which publishers have refused. The final offer from the gamers did include a large 35% increase in the base rate of $556.20 per vo session, in addition to various backend incentives. SAG/AFTRA's final proposal featured a profit sharing in games that sell over 400,000 units, which only a few titles per year ever reach.

Total revenue for games sales in 2004 was $6.2 billion.

For the movie industry, the strike would greatly affect videogame tie-ins with major film releases. Top stars have received high six figures for voice work in games.

"There is only one way to describe (videogame producers') position completely unreasonable and lacking in any appreciation of the contributions made by actors to the enormous profits enjoyed by this industry," said SAG president Melissa Gilbert. "If producers want their games to maintain a professional quality, they need to offer an agreement that shows greater respect to the professional performers who make these games come alive."

However, the publishers claim that the actors unions are demanding too much considering that non-celeb voice work usual costs $50,000, but under the terms of the unions could upwards of $1 million.

But ultimately, the dispute seemed to come down to whether SAG and AFTRA have any leverage in potentially removing their members from the vidgame biz.

"Voice-over work represents a small fraction of a videogame's development and consumer enjoyment," said Howard Fabrick, a partner at law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, who negotiated on behalf of the publishers. "The game publishers don't expect any impasse to have long-term impact on their business."

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