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SAG-AFTRA launches new contract tiers for indie devs

Under this specific agreement, indie studios can now work with union performers, provided they meet the right budget requirements.

Justin Carter

February 7, 2024

2 Min Read
Graphic for SAG-AFTRA's newest video game-related deal with actors.
Image via SAG-AFTRA.

At a Glance

  • The actors union strikes another actor-related deal as it negotiates an Interactive Media Agreement with larger developers.

As negotiations with larger studios continue, SAG-AFTRA has formed a new interactive media agreement (IMA) specifically aimed at benefiting indie game developers.

The deal will let indie studios cast union performers on projects. Due to the traditional IMA, that privilege was previously unafforded to them.

Studios with budgets ranging from $250,000 to $15 million are eligible for the new deal. Under it, actors get "strong AI protections" and additional pay for games based on unit sales.

The streamlined indie IMA covers new work that doesn't fall under the typical agreement. It also replaces an earlier Low Budget Agreement and ups budget caps so more projects can qualify.

The rate sheet covers four or 6-hour VO sessions, off-camera singing and performance capture, and on-camera singing or dancing. Rates range from $338 to over $3,500, depending on the tier and task.

Per the FAQ, if a studio exceeds its budgeted tier, it must reclassify its project for the right tier. Developers are also advised to contact the union immediately to find a solution.

If it's an intentional misrepresentation, SAG-AFTRA will reclassify the project to the right tier. The studio must then pay actors under the correct rate (including extra voices or overtime) and can't use the performance until it's all paid.

SAG-AFTRA's 68-page agreement can be read here.

SAG-AFTRA's still trying to handle actors' future with AI

Since September 2023, SAG-AFTRA has been in talks with larger developers like Insomniac and Activision Blizzard over video game actors.

Said actors agreed to strike should talks fall through, but so far, there's been no real word either way. The union, for its part, has repeatedly stressed it wants to protect all game performers from AI as best it can.

That said, it also allowed any developer specifically working with tech company Replica Studios to use AI voices, with clear consent. Amidst the backlash, it said the deal would guide future agreements.

Like Replica's deal, the indie IMA requires that actors consent to having their voices used for AI in indie projects. Devs must also explicitly state what the duplicate's being used for and when.

And like the agreement struck with Replica, this tiered indie agreement runs until the end of 2024. After that, it's unknown whether it will be renewed or a new deal will take place.

About the Author(s)

Justin Carter

Contributing Editor, GameDeveloper.com

A Kansas City, MO native, Justin Carter has written for numerous sites including IGN, Polygon, and SyFy Wire. In addition to Game Developer, his writing can be found at io9 over on Gizmodo. Don't ask him about how much gum he's had, because the answer will be more than he's willing to admit.

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