What Video Game Actors Earn

The best voice talents in the industry are lucky if they can negotiate an hourly fee that’s twice the minimum wage guaranteed by their unions. (Voice actors are essentially paid $200 an hour to do up to three video game voices, while a TV commercial voice-acting gig would pay the same actor a minimum of $300 an hour, a bonus of $1,000 or more if the ad airs nationally and online, and offer them additional payments called residuals if the ad keeps running for a long time.)

Meanwhile, more and more game developers are giving the key roles to Hollywood stars for considerably larger sums, eating up budget and parts that could go to professional game actors.

In Polygon, David Griner looks at how video game voice actors earn a living, and why — despite games like Call of Duty bringing in more than $1 billion in sales or talents who build a substantial fanbase (like Jennifer Hale, who voices Commander Shepard in the Mass Effect series) — they are only paid hourly rates for their time in their studio and no bonuses or residuals. Hollywood actors, on the other hand — like Nathan Fillion or Sam Worthington — are paid larger sums of money to voice bit parts, which results in smaller budgets to pay the voice actors who shoulder the principal characters in video games.

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