Well. It’s the…

Summer of Strikes

SAG-AFTRA has officially declared a strike. The labor union—which stands for Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists—comprises of a membership over over 100,000 film and television performers. In conjunction with the ongoing WGA (Writers Guild of America) strikes, these work stoppages are likely to upend and cancel a large portion of productions and any new releases in the film and television industry for an indefinite amount of time.

While only a few members of the games industry may be members of SAG and/or WGA, the issues at the heart of the the strikes affect and trickle down to all creative industries just the same, especially when it comes to the ongoing controversy around the uses of AI, entitlements to streaming and digital platform residuals, and overall better work conditions.

The strikes have defined specific limits to ensure participants and supporters do not cross the picket line, but those in pursuit of work may be able to find sources outside of the film and television industry. This however is not clearly defined, especially when the term limits of the Interactive Media Agreement have expired. The agreement provided members better benefits to remote work options, such as dubbing and voice acting—especially for projects outside the sphere of film and television like video games—in the midst of the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when live work was on halt.

Some troupes like Critical Role are continuing their production schedule, despite having members of SAG-AFTRA in their cast such as Matthew Mercer. Many actual play productions do not involve the direct involvement of SAG and/or WGA. On the other hand, other creator-led companies like Dropout have currently halted new production in solidarity with the strike, but have already finished enough work that can pack in a schedule for another year. Several of their own recurring cast members, such as Siobhan Thompson, are member of the WGA.

Talent often crosses over many mediums, and the blurring of these lines is another point of contention in the midst of the strikes, especially pointing to the unnecessary distinctions that have divided animation talent from the rest of the film industry.

Regardless, people can monetarily support participants in the strikes through funds such as the Entertainment Community Fund, Groceries for Writers, and the official SAG-AFTRA Emergency Relief Fund.

A strike for UPS workers is potentially looming as well, which will potentially involve the participation of over 300,000 workers. The strike would potentially last about 10 days, and can potentially make a negative economic impact of over $7 billion.

In good news, Sega of America’s union election has ended in victory for the union, with the 91-26 vote cementing them as the largest multi-department gaming industry union.

The Microsoft Bidding Battle (Continued)

It’s beginning to look like Microsoft’s bid to buy Activision might go through. The US Federal Trade Commission’s attempt to block the sale was shot down by California Judge Jacqueline Corley, and the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority has extended their deadline for their review on the situation until August 29th. Microsoft has reportedly offered to sell aspects of their cloud gaming business in Europe, which was the major hang-up the CMA had with the sale.

The FTC is appealing the decision, but it will most likely not move further. There is also the fact that Corley’s son works for Microsoft. (Knowing how this country works, who is to say if anything will come out of that!)

Other Bad Behavior and Some Bye’s

Niantic, developers behind Pokemon GO, have been accused of hosting a “boy’s club” culture at the studio by former employees, according to a new lawsuit. The Jane Doe accuser in the lawsuit claims she was underpaid compared to men who she had a higher job title than.

Two voice actors who worked on Genshin Impact, Corina Boettger (Paimon) and Brandon Winckler (various voices), have reported on large amounts of pay owed to them from the game haven’t appeared.

Hoyoverse, creators of Genshin Impact, have replied, claiming the pay was in fact sent to the actors’ recording studio, Formosa Group, who was then supposed to pass the payment onto them. While Hoyoverse is saying they are looking into alternatives to compensate those with withheld pay, Winckler says he will no longer work on the game unless it becomes union work.

The person who was accused of swatting Ubisoft Montreal’s offices in 2020 has been identified and sentenced to three years of community service. Yanni Ouahioune was allegedly mad that he was banned around 80 times from Rainbow Six: Siege.

TinyBuild Games, publisher of titles such as the Hello Neighbor franchise, is under fire for claiming to use AI to find toxic and slacking employees at the studio. CEO Alex Nichiporchik has said that they aren’t using the technology in that way, but instead brought it up as an example of good and bad uses of AI, whatever that means.

The Borderlands movie, a film everyone totally wanted, has been in post-production hell for quite a while. Now, one of its writers, Craig Mazin, has replaced his writing credit with a pseudonym. This does not bode well for the quality of the film, which was test screened last year and did so poorly, that reshoots are still being done to this day. Mazin has recently made a name for himself with the Chernobyl mini-series, but he also put his name on Scary Movie 3 and 4. You be the judge here.

18+ developer Illusion, creator of games such as Koikatsu Party, VR Kanojo, and other, far more other infamous and controversial eroge games, is shutting down and ceasing sales on August 18th. No direct reason has been listed, but it’s been generally accepted that their games were very widely pirated, which led to low sales.

Microsoft’s in-house hype man Larry Hryb, also known by his gamertag “Major Nelson”, is leaving Microsoft after twenty years. Hryb was seemingly part of a recent wave of layoffs in the sales and support sector. His XBox podcast is supposedly only going on hiatus, and where he’ll be heading next is unknown.

New Games and New Mediums

EA Games has opened a new studio, Cliffhanger Games, to work on a new Black Panther title. Cliffhanger is made up of ex-Halo, Call of Duty, and God of War devs. This is a separate game from the Skydance Black Panther and Captain America game announced last year.

Athough not overshadowing its American chapter’s union victory, Sega has greenlit a new “blockchain-based game” in one of their successful franchises. No word on specifics on what IP that specifically is, but with how popular the blockchain is now, we’re sure it’ll crash and burn.

Final Fantasy XVI is being adapted for stage as a musical. The stage show will be held by the Takarazuka Revue company, who is famous for having women perform every role.

Limited Run Games hosted their own E3-style showcase again this year, and they announced a variety of new titles as well as new ports of old games. Highlights include the Zelda CDi-styled Arzette: The Jewel of Faramore, a title in the style of Mischief Makers called Double Shake, a finished version of the previously cancelled Shantae GBA game, and new ports of Clock Tower and Tomba.

The lowlight was the apparent porting of the first three Gex games. It is, unfortunately, tail time. The full showcase can be watched below:

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