SAG/AFTRA video game strike on the way for Hollywood?

Update: Variety's editors gave BB readers a reg-free link to story (see end of post).

Here in Hollywood today, the top story in Daily Variety: is a video game labor strike by the entertainment industry's two actors' unions imminent? As recent releases like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas demonstrate, big names are becoming a must-have for game titles. Voice talent in GTA:SA included James Woods, Samuel L. Jackson, Peter Fonda, and the blogosphere's own Wil Wheaton.

The Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA are in a critical, final stretch of negotiations with a group of major vidgame publishers, all of which have come to rely on union talent for increasingly cinematic — and lucrative — vidgames. The last contract covered Electronic Arts, some 70 other big gaming companies agreed to its terms.

Present contract, currently in its second extension, is set to expire on Friday, and there will not be a third extension, setting the stage for a potential work stoppage. Complicating matters: Unlike the film and TV companies, which have a long history of collective bargaining and an org that represents them, vidgamers are relatively disorganized and new to the idea of bargaining with labor. "It's 50/50 right now," said an insider. "It really could go either way."

(…)A strike would most affect the industry with regard to the use of big names. From Clint Eastwood to Vin Diesel to Heather Graham and even Marlon Brando in EA's "Godfather" adaptation, A-list talent is turning from a rarity to a must-have in the vidgame world.

Kudos to my pal and former colleague Ben Fritz, who broke this report for Variety today. Link (paid subscribers only — arrrrrgh!)

Update: Olivia Hemaratanatorn of has very kindly provided a free, no-subscription-required link for Boing Boing readers. Thanks very much, Olivia! Reg-free-Link