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Hollywood unions reach deal with video game makers

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Gaming

Hollywood actors unions have reached a contract deal with video game publishers, accepting higher pay instead of the profit-sharing they had demanded, the unions said Wednesday, removing the threat of a strike.

The three-and-a-half-year agreements with game companies came as the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) were preparing to announce the results of a strike vote.

Unions had sought to win profit-sharing, known as residual payments, from game publishers.

Under the new agreements, union performers will get a 36 percent increase in minimum pay over the term, increases in benefit contributions and greater protection. The agreements are subject to final approval by the unions.

The unions, which said they struck the deal with reluctance, vowed to continue their bid to win payments for actors for each game sold. Actors who appear in movies and television shows receive residual payments when those works are shown again.

"While we did not get all that we want ... and deserve ... this contract is another important step in building artists' power in this growing sector of the media industry," said John Connolly, AFTRA's national president.

"We will spend the next three-and-a-half years devoting resources to further organize this industry, and return to the bargaining table with renewed strength and vigor to establish a fair participation in the enormous profits generated by video games," SAG President Melissa Gilbert said.

Union members' previous three-year interactive game contracts expired in December. Negotiations started on Feb. 15 but broke down on May 13.

Hollywood plays an increasingly important role in the video game industry -- which, like U.S. movie ticket sales, brings in around $10 billion in annual revenue -- as game developers tap movie stars to bring life to characters.

The best-selling game of 2004, "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas," featured the voices of actors like Samuel L. Jackson and Peter Fonda.

Just behind it on the sales charts was "Halo 2" with the voices of Miguel Ferrer and Keith David.
And it is now common for movie actors to be required to contribute to related video games.

More than 70 game publishers previously had arrangements with SAG and AFTRA, which together represent about 3,000 performers working in the video game industry.

A spokesman for the coalition of game developers was not immediately available for comment.

© Reuters 2005.

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