2023 has been a great year for gaming, with its fair share of highlights and genre-defining releases. The next year is expected to continue this momentum, but the threat of industry-wide delays appears to be looming over the gaming industry.
SAG-AFTRA, the union representing American artists, is looking to gain approval for a strike against gaming companies. The union’s last strike took place in October 2016 and lasted 340 days.
This strike targeted 11 popular gaming companies but eventually ended after the parties reached a common conclusion. However, SAG-AFTRA may initiate a strike again, which would cause industry-wide delays.
Why it matters: In July, WGA and SAG-AFTRA initiated a strike against Hollywood. The strike had adverse impacts and led to delays for major projects like the next Spider-Man movie, leading to potential concerns about a similar instance for games.
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SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said in a statement:
“Here we go again! Now our Interactive (Video Game) Agreement is at a stalemate too. Once again we are facing employer greed and disrespect.”
SAG-AFTRA consists of thousands of actors from the film, TV, and gaming industry. The union recently hoped to negotiate a renewed contract for its members involved in games but did not find the new contract satisfactory.
As SAG-AFTRA prepares for further discussions after September 25, it has asked for permission from union members for another strike, but this permission will not necessarily lead to a strike immediately.
The board members will now vote to decide the matter of a future strike. Should the strike be approved, SAG-AFTRA will have a powerful tool for negotiation, potentially resorting to the strike as a final measure if negotiations fail.
The companies affected in such a scenario include Insomniac Games, Activision, EA, Take-Two Interactive, and more. This would be devastating for the industry since these developers have several games in the works.
Duncan Crabtree-Ireland from SAG-AFTRA explained that the union seeks justice for artists bringing gaming characters to life. Amid the rise of AI-generated content, SAG-AFTRA is also looking to address job security.
Should the negotiations fail, a strike would be inevitable, potentially leading to delays for games like GTA 6 and Marvel’s Wolverine that are currently in development at these studios.
The former is expected to be released in fiscal year 2025, but it is unclear if work like motion capture and voice acting has been completed. Therefore, a significant delay for GTA 6 cannot be ruled out.
On the other hand, annual franchises like Call of Duty may be required to break their annual release cycles for the first time in over a decade if the negotiations fall through.
The union wants an 11% retroactive wage increase for game artists, along with another 4% increase in subsequent years. This is the same demand that led to the strikes against film and television.
September will be critical to the short-term future of the gaming industry, and fans can only hope that SAG-AFTRA is able to negotiate with the aforementioned companies to avoid another strike.
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