GTA IV Star Center of Game Actor Pay Debate

| 21 May 2008 11:25

The voice talent behind Grand Theft Auto IV's Niko Bellic is being used to illustrate the pay disparities between the videogame industry and other forms of entertainment.

Michael Hollick, the 35-year-old who gives voice to the game's protagonist, netted $100,000 over the course of 15 months of work with Rockstar, with no royals or residuals offered.

"Had this been a television program, a film, an album, a radio show or virtually any other sort of traditional recorded performance," observed The New York Times, "Mr. Hollick and the other actors in the game would have made millions by now. As it stands, they get nothing beyond the standard Screen Actors Guild day rate they were originally paid."

Hollick said he held no hard feelings against the developer, Rockstar: "Obviously I'm incredibly thankful to Rockstar for the opportunity to be in this game when I was just a nobody, an unknown quantity."

He did, however, point out what he called "gray areas," such as when his voice was featured as part of internet and TV promos, advertising that had gone partially unmentioned in the contract.

Rockstar did not comment for the article, although the Times found others to deliver a different view:

"What drives video games is not Tracy and Hepburn; what drives it is the conception of the creative director," said Ezra J. Doner, a former Hollywood executive who represents entertainment companies as a lawyer at Herrick, Feinstein in Brooklyn, N.Y. "The actor whose appearance or voice is used is more analogous to a session music for a band. The session musicians don't get residuals on the sales of the CD. They get paid a session fee. It's not like the star quality of Tom Cruise that's getting people to buy that video game."