The American Federation of Radio and Television Artists held a breakfast meeting with leaders of the videogame market in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Tuesday in an effort to increase their members' participation in a business that earns billions of dollars each year.
Though the union does not see a slippage in the number of videogame jobs going to union members, it does want to increase the union's share, AFTRA spokesperson John Hinrichs said in an interview with Backstage.com.
"There needs to be more growth," Hinrichs said. "We're trying increase opportunities for members to earn more money and qualify" for health and pension benefits.
There is a lot of money at stake. A report by the Entertainment Software Association said sales for U.S. video and computer games reached $6.2 billion in 2005. That amount, which does not even take into account worldwide sales, has doubled since 1996. (In 2004, a report in the Economist said the videogame industry did $20 billion worth of business a year worldwide.)
On the surface, it's difficult to see how a producer or consumer would notice whether the voice-and-visual talent is union or not. However, Hinrichs said, it matters a great deal.
"The voices are professional voices," Hinrichs said. "They are attuned to the way a developer wants the game to sound and how he wants a player to experience it.
Also, Hinrichs said, "professional talent works quickly and efficiently to deliver a great product. They don't have to spend as much time recording the talent. It's cheaper in the long run."
Mathis Dunn, AFTRA's national assistant executive director, said in a statement that union talent can directly influence sales.
"AFTRA is synonymous with successful videogames, as eight of the top-10 selling videogames in 2005 were produced under the AFTRA Interactive Media Agreement," he said.
The interactive agreement was established in 2005 and runs through 2008. It sets various work rates for the production of videogames but does not provide the artists with residuals on the sale of the games, Hinrichs said.