UPDATE: It has been announced that the strike will only effect games that started production after February 2015. Thus, my predicted titles will NOT be delayed due to this strike. Unless the strike goes on for an extended period of time, it’s unlikely we will be privvy to any delays that occur due to the strike.
If you don’t pay attention to acting unions (and seriously, why would you?), you may be unfamiliar with SAG-AFTRA (hereafter referred to as SA) but now, that name is starting to make waves within the gaming industry. Let me give you a bit of background on SA.
Back in the day, SAG and AFTRA were the two major actor’s unions in Hollywood. They merged back in 2012 to make SA which covers pretty much anyone wanting to get into acting. While they serve primarily traditional acting/modeling talent, they reach the video game industry through voice-over and motion capture talent.
For almost a year now, they have started making noise about taking their actors on strike due to outdated contracts and terms and that is finally coming to fruition. As of a few hours ago, they started their strike. Here is a link to SA’s website listing their concerns. Check it out. I’ll be here when you get back.
So according to SA, the negotiations fell through on two major points. Transparency and secondary payments. Safety for actors was, thankfully, not an issue and stunt coordinators/shorter vocal sessions were quickly agreed upon by both sides. However, game developers were not willing to concede open information regarding casting, likely due to the possible spoilers that would reveal to fans plus the fluidity of game development. They also wanted to offer an upfront bonus to actors instead of royalties, essentially buying out their royalty payments. SA fought back saying they had to have the royalty options. Thus, with these two issues, the strike started with SA championing the hashtag #performancematters on Twitter.
I’ll leave it up to you to fight about who is in the right but what I’m more interested in is how this will affect the game industry in the near future. In game development, voice acting is usually one of the last things done so that all scenario writing can be finalized before paying voice actors to come in and record lines that don’t even make it into the game. Thus, if there are going to be delays, they will be on games coming out pretty soon. Holiday releases are likely finished up already, especially the packed month of November so the window this will affect, if it affects anything at all, is likely games releasing in early 2017.
It’s also worth noting that only 11 companies are being affected by the strike and they are all major video game publishers. Smaller outfits including indie developers and middle tier are likely not affected by this strike. Here is the complete listing of companies included in the strike:
|Activision Publishing, Inc.||Blindlight, LLC||Corps of Discovery Films|
|Disney Character Voices, Inc.||Electronic Arts Productions, Inc.||Formosa Interactive, LLC|
|Insomniac Games, Inc.||Interactive Associates, Inc.||Take 2 Interactive Software|
|VoiceWorks Productions, Inc.||WB Games, Inc.|
Just because a company isn’t explicitly named here doesn’t mean they won’t be impacted, however. Several of these companies such as Blindlight, LLC and Disney Character Voices, Inc. outsource their vocal talent to developers on a contractual basis. Bethesda, for example, has used vocal talent from Blindlight in their games. So even though Bethesda isn’t one of the listed companies, they could still be impacted.
Taking these considerations into account, a few titles that could possibly see a delay in the next few weeks include:
- Resident Evil 7
- Halo Wars 2
- Mass Effect: Andromeda
- Horizon: Zero Dawn
- Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands
I want to clarify that delays have NOT been confirmed by any means. This is purely my speculation but if a video game actor strike does continue for a significant amount of time, we will definitely start seeing some delays announced and these are likely candidates for early casualties.