Games may be losing their voice

Online trade magazine reports that negotiations between SAG and game publishers to renew voice-acting contract "could go either way."

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Actors looking to pick up an easy paycheck have been lending their voices to games for a long time now. More recently, game publishers have been landing A-list thespians to do voice work for their products, adding a bit of celebrity to their marketing and establishing the business as a major player in the entertainment industry.

Several forthcoming games have recently signed on professional talent, and the list doesn't include just bit players anymore. To name a few, Academy Award winner Charlize Theron will lend her voice to Majesco's Aeon Flux, David Duchovny and Marilyn Manson will voice-act original characters for Midway's upcoming Area 51, and Sean Connery will do some Bond-speak for EA's recently announced From Russia With Love. Actors are even voicing from beyond the grave--the late Marlon Brando will join James Caan and Robert Duvall in Electronic Arts' digital version of The Godfather.

However, the vocal marriage between actors and games may be silenced. According to online trade Web site Variety.com (registration required), the contract between the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and game publishers expires tomorrow.

Apparently, it's not just a simple case of adding a zero to the contract and continuing with the process. Because the use of top-tier actors and SAG members in games is relatively new, the gaming industry has little experience negotiating deals with outside agencies and hasn't formed any collective bargaining agreement or representative organization to deal with such issues.

According to Variety.com, the current contract pays actors on a one-time basis without residuals, something that doesn't fly with the movie biz. With some games reporting opening weekends that make Hollywood jealous (according to Microsoft, Bungie's Halo 2 topped $100 million on its first day of sales), actors may be asking for royalties for their contributions.

GameSpot will have more on this situation as it develops.

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