It's a long entry, and it really needs to be read in its entirety, so please, go check it out, and then come right back.
Okay then, let's continue. The money quote which describes the beef of the whole argument:
As I understood the video game negotiations, SAG wasn't asking for per-unit payments from video game producers. The proposal I read and supported asked for an additional session fee, after the game in question had sold a minimum of 50,000 copies and was profitable. Yeah, that sure seems unreasonable, doesn't it? Especially since actors account for something like 2% of the average game's budget.
I have to say that it does seem unreasonable, Wil.
I see no reason why the voice actors should get an "additional session fee," when nobody else on the entire game gets that. Assuming that "additional session fee" means your half day minimum pay, which according to your data (which I trust, as you're in SAG) is $759. Also according to you, it seems that 4 hours is about all it takes to get a voice recorded in a game. If I'm doing my math right here, that means you're getting a 100% bonus of your contracted pay for the game, the second it becomes profitable. How you consider this to not be profit-sharing (as it's obviously money taken from the profits) is a bit boggling, but I'm not even interested in arguing that point.
What I'm interested in, is that if this concept is to be considered "fair" or "reasonable," we need to apply it to everyone on the project. "Why not form a union," you say? Well, let's take this argument to its logical conclusion, and say we did form a union, and we all got this "reasonable" deal. We all got relatively a 100% bonus on our salary when a game ships. Hey! It DOES sound pretty great!
It sounds pretty great, until you stop to realize that with those kind of bonuses, suddenly the game is no longer profitable. We've just added at least 50% of the cost of the game back into the budget. A game that cost 10 million dollars to produce now suddenly costs 15 million. Obviously, the bonuses won't be paid out 'till the title reaches 15 million, so what was previously 5 million dollars in profit now must be earmarked and sat on (i.e. not reported as profit and spent or invested) untill such time as the profits surpassed 15 million. A royalty based payment structure would have allowed the fair percentage of that 5 million to be paid out quarterly as soon as the title became profitable (the first dollar over the 10 million dollar budget).
In short, the idea of residuals is actually worse than royalties. The residual system wouldn't even allow the industry to survive, and no industry means no games, and no games means no jobs. I'd rather you guys got your fair share of royalties for the game (no, honest, I think anyone who participated in the creation of the title is entitled to a share of the profits commensurate to their amount of work involved), which would probably amount to about $80 for $800 worth of work. The idea that you're owed any more than that for a half day's worth of work, quite frankly, is unfair. Both to you, me, and the industry at large.
I hate to say it, but the industry has numbers that prove that voice actors don't drive sales. They just don't. And these numbers are what they used to make their decision on this deal. Kids don't go buy Area51 because David Duchovny or Marilyn Manson are in it. To be perfectly fair and use a cross-industry example, there's data that proves that nobody buys a sports game because of the cover athlete, either. It's a game. People buy them for the gameplay. I buy movies for acting, story, and directing. I buy games for the game. Story and acting is second. Supplemental, influential, inspiring, hell, sometimes even as good as a feature film, but second. If there ever comes a day when the actors are more important than the game, we've failed as a community of game developers.