SAG game for a tame contract

Members score 36% increase in rate for vidgame work

SAG members have voted to accept a new interactive contract with videogame publishers with an 81% endorsement — despite the pact’s lack of residuals.

Deal maintains SAG’s oversight of vidgame voiceover work and gives guild members the same deal already approved by AFTRA’s members last month: a 36% increase in the base rate of $556.20 per session for vidgame voiceover work.

SAG, which announced the results Thursday, said roughly 1,400 ballots were returned. Voting began July 13 with 1,932 ballots sent to those members who had worked under the contract plus another 1,441 sent to members requesting a ballot.

The approval by members comes six weeks after SAG’s national executive committee voted by a narrow margin to reject a contract previously approved unanimously, though unenthusiastically, by a negotiating committee composed entirely of vidgame voiceover thesps. SAG’s national board then voted to send the deal to a vote of the membership without any recommendation.

While the newly inked pact also includes other gains, including a 7.5% increase in contributions to the union’s benefit plan and additional payments for reuse of a single performance in multiple titles, SAG and AFTRA both failed to get what every artists union is thirsting for: residuals.

Offer rejected

In May producers spurned SAG and AFTRA’s final proposal, which included a demand for profit sharing in games that sell more than 400,000 units. That category includes only a few hits per year, such as recent successes “Halo 2” and “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas,” but vidgame publishers generate most of their revenues from such games. Microsoft’s “Halo 2” and Rockstar’s “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas” — last year’s biggest titles — saw sales of more than $250 million each for the $7 billion-a-year videogame industry.

Current contract covers between 10% and 15% of those artists working as performers in vidgames for publishing giants like Electronic Arts and some 70-odd other gaming companies of varying sizes. Outgoing SAG prexy Melissa Gilbert has promised that those low numbers will become the focus of the union’s organizing efforts.

Contract will run through the end of 2008.

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