Hellena Taylor, the English voice actor for PlatinumGames' Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2, has called for players to boycott the upcoming Bayonetta 3. Over the weekend, Taylor released a series of videos alleging that she was offered low pay to voice the character that she's been playing since 2009.
While video game franchises have recast characters in the past, Taylor actively calling on fans of the franchise to boycott the release of Bayonetta 3 is unusual.
In her videos, Taylor claims that she was offered $4,000 to return and play Bayonetta for the third game, whose trailers hint at multiple versions of the same character appearing in it. That amount of pay, while she acknowledged as being legal, was also "immoral."
"The Bayonetta franchise made approximately $450 million. That’s not including merchandise," said Taylor. "This is an insult to me [and] the amount of time that I took to work on my talent and everything I’ve given to this game and to the fans.”
In Bayonetta 3, the titular character will be voiced by Jennifer Hale, whose career includes Mass Effect and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. Platinum explained to Game Informer earlier in the month that Hale's casting was due to "various overlapping circumstances."
Taylor went on to claim that she wrote to executive director (and PlatinumGames' VP) Hideki Kamiya in an attempt to get better pay, but the fixed price remained. She continued by saying that walking away led to her having anxiety and depression. "Fat cats cream off the top and leave us the crumbs."
In response to Taylor's videos, Kamiya dismissed the allegations on Twitter, calling them "sad and deplorable." Later in the weekend, his Twitter was deactivated, but it appears to be back up at time of writing.
Beyond the games bearing Bayonetta's name, Taylor voiced the character in the anime film adaptation of the first game. She also voiced the character in Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. (2014) and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Bayonetta also appeared as a guest character, voiced by Taylor, in Platinum's Anarchy Reigns and The Wonderful 101.
At time of writing, neither Platinum or Nintendo (which has published the Bayonetta franchise since 2014), have provided an official statement.
Friends, Worldlings, Bayonutters. Hear ye!#PlatinumGames #Nintendo #Bayonetta #Bayonetta3 #Bayonutters #Boycott #NintendoEurope #NintendoAmerica #NintendoJapan pic.twitter.com/h9lwiX2bBt— Hellena Taylor (@hellenataylor) October 15, 2022
Update: Voice actor Jennifer Hale posted her own response regarding Taylor's allegations. It's unusual to hear a voice actor speak on matters such as this, particularly before the developer itself has issued a statement.
"I support every actor's right to be paid well and have advocated consistently for this for years," wrote Hale.
Hale stressed that she's "under an NDA and not at liberty to speak regarding this situation. [...] I hope everyone will keep an open mind about what [the developers] have created."
Her statement concluded by saying "I hope that everyone involved may resolve their differences in an amicable and respectful way."
About Bayonetta 3: pic.twitter.com/e4VrclEQIm— Jennifer Hale (@jhaletweets) October 17, 2022
Update 10/18: The controversy around Bayonetta 3's casting has become even more complicated.
As reported by Bloomberg's Jason Schreier, PlatinumGames was reportedly fully prepared to bring Taylor back as Bayonetta. The initial plan, according to sources, was that Taylor would be paid $3,0000-4,000 for at least five four-hour recording sessions and a total of nearly $15,000.
Taylor allegedly asked for a six-figure sum in response, along with residual pay for after the game's release. When Platinum declined that offer, negotiations ensued, and the search for a new voice actor began after said negotiations broke down. The developers later offered Taylor a cameo in the game for a fee of one session, which she similarly declined.
Schreier's report further attributed Bayonetta 3's rising acting costs to the inclusion of multiple actors from SAG-AFTRA, the screen actors union that features many voice actors among its ranks. Game voice actors secured an increase in wage and benefits back in 2020, though the current agreement will end on November 7.
Those union actors, sources said, came with a price tag of $900 (minimum) for a four-hour voice session, plus bonuses. And for prominent actors or stars of big franchises, that cost can get even higher.
Responding to Schreier, Taylor reiterated that she stood by her initial words, and called the claim an "absolute lie." Speaking plainly, the voice actor wrote that she's now ready to leave the long-running character and franchise in the past.
"I would like to put this whole bloody franchise behind me quite frankly get on with my life in the theatre."