Oct 17, 2022 - Technology

Bayonetta voice actor's boycott plea reignites gaming pay debate

Screenshot of a Tweeted video of a woman talking into a camera. Her Tweet includes hashtags for Bayonetta, Platinum Games and Nintendo

Hellena Taylor tweets about Bayonetta. Screenshot: Twitter/Axios

Bayonetta’s voice actor for the series’ first two games called on fans to boycott the upcoming Bayonetta 3 this weekend, saying developers offered her an “immoral” rate to return to the role, then misled the public about why she didn’t.

Why it matters: With a series of viral tweets, actress Hellena Taylor changed the online discussion around a signature Nintendo Switch release and resurfaced debate about what video game voice actors should be paid.

Details: On Saturday, Taylor posted four videos in which she said she was offered $4,000 to reprise the role of Bayonetta, who she voiced in the English language version of the series’ games released in 2009 and 2014.

  • Both games, along with a third, set for release on Oct. 28, were developed by Osaka, Japan-based PlatinumGames.
  • Taylor said she had complained directly to Platinum co-founder Hideki Kamiya about a low initial offer, and negotiated up to $4,000, only to then see a Platinum developer publicly state recently that the role was recast because of “various overlapping circumstances.”

What they’re saying: “I urge you to boycott this game,” Taylor said in her videos. “I decided to do it to stand up in solidarity with people all over the world who do not get paid properly for their talents."

  • Shortly after Taylor posted her videos, Kamiya tweeted: “Sad and deplorable about the attitude of untruth. That's what all I can tell now."
  • Promotional tweets for the new game are being swarmed with links to Taylor's videos.
  • Taylor, her reps, Platinum and Nintendo all did not reply to Axios’ request for comment.

The tweets raised several unanswered questions, including how and why Platinum was able to replace Taylor with Jennifer Hale, one of the most renowned voice actors in the field and one who is unlikely to work cheap.

  • English voice work for Bayonetta games have been recorded under SAG/AFTRA union rules which currently pay voice actors a minimum of about $1,000 a session, with top actors able to get multiples of that.
  • One source familiar with the Bayonetta games told Axios recording for the lead role has spanned three to four sessions per release.

The big picture: The finances of video game voice acting differ greatly from work in other entertainment media, because they don’t guarantee residuals, leaving some actors frustrated when the games they voice become massive hits.

  • Michael Hollick, who voiced the lead character for 2008’s Grand Theft Auto IV, told the New York Times that year that he was unhappy being paid $100,000 for 15 months’ worth of work on a game that immediately earned $600 million in its first three weeks of release.
  • One voice actor reacting to Taylor’s tweets noted this weekend that he made about $3000 for voicing a major supporting character in a hit Zelda game from Nintendo, said he’d love royalties but had no regrets.
  • In 2017, a year-long industry-wide video game voice actor strike resulted in a new SAG/AFTRA contract that raised rates but did not add residuals. That agreement was extended in 2020 but expires on Nov. 7.

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