Bayonetta 3 Under Fire After Tweets from Bayonetta’s Original Voice Actor

Bayonetta 3, which is set for release on the Nintendo Switch Oct. 28, has recently been under fire after Hellena Taylor, the original voice actor of the game’s protagonist, Bayonetta, took to Twitter why she isn’t reprising the role. She was allegedly offered a flat rate of only $4000, an unusually low rate, by the game’s publisher Nintendo Co. and developer Platinum Games. 

Since her initial tweet, there have been claims that Taylor’s video was not true. According to Bloomberg reporter Jason Schrier, Platinum Games offered to rehire Taylor for at least five sessions paying between $3000 to $4000 per session. This would make the alleged total pay at least $15,000. 

Jennifer Hale, the voice actor who is replacing Taylor for Bayonetta 3, tweeted a response saying that she can’t go into detail due to an NDA and that Hale’s “reputation speaks for itself.” 

This sequence of events has led to a larger discussion about how voice actors are treated and compensated, especially in the gaming industry. 

“I think there are two different conversations happening. One, pay artists what they deserve and two, [voice acting] is a competitive business,” James Miles, voice actor and assistant professor, said. 

Christopher Paul, a professor of communication at Seattle U, has published several books about video games and the surrounding industry. In a class he is currently teaching about video games, the controversy surrounding Bayonetta 3 was discussed. 

“I think that a structural issue for voice actors is that it’s a hard job, it’s under-appreciated and it’s a situation where a lot of people want to do it. The pay isn’t good and the people that do it are often seen as fungible parts,” Paul said. 

This has been an issue for voice actors for quite a while. In 2016, voice actors represented by the SAG-AFTRA union, including Hale, went on strike in hopes of securing better pay for video game acting work. While they did not get their intended result, they did secure bonuses for voice actors based on the number of sessions a role requires. 

Strikes, though, are not always a viable option for employees to secure better working conditions or wages. 

“I think that pre-pandemic, certainly, and for a period of time really back to 1980, strikes have been increasingly risky for unions and for workers. That is because an employer is free to replace everybody, and so for easily replaceable employees, a strike is really scary,” Elizabeth Ford, a visiting assistant professor in the School of Law at Seattle U, said. 

In a market like voice acting where people are often freelancers and not tied to unions such as the SAG-AFTRA union, jobs are very competitive and employees can seldom find leeway to secure the compensation they feel they deserve. 

There has been a recent push within the gaming industry to unionize as a way of addressing issues like poor wages and sexual harassment. Ford addresses how there can be a misconception that only certain workplaces are appropriate for unions. 

“You can have a union in any workplace, and we are starting to think of unions more broadly. For example, Uber and Lyft drivers, they have a union. Their workplace is totally different, so their union operates differently, but in Washington they have a union,” Ford said. 

June 2022 marked a historic win for the gaming industry when the Games Worker Alliance was created in partnership with the country’s largest communications and media union, Communications Workers of America

The discussion around fair compensation for voice actors in the video game industry reflects a larger problem of lack of respect for artists in the U.S. Miles pointed out the lack of support for those who pursue the arts as a career here in Washington. 

“For so many artists that are living in Seattle, particularly, there is not enough creative support to support the artists living here. Which is a horrendous thing for us to consider because we have the third highest GDP in the country. And yet, we do not support our artists. We are 45th in arts funding,” Miles said. 

Time will tell if the discussion spurred by Taylor will result in change within the gaming industry for artists and voice actors. While the controversy ultimately only concerns a single game and voice actor, it has the potential to spark greater changes within a multi-million dollar industry.