Update (July 14, 2023): Genshin Impact studio HoYoverse sent GamesRadar+ a statement which says that it has been paying Formosa, the recording studio responsible for paying the actors, on time, and that it supports the actors' efforts to "claim their proper due" from that company. The full statement from HoYoverse reads:
"We truly regret to learn about the ongoing situation. Genshin Impact values and respects the work and effort of everyone involved, and we support our voice actors to claim their proper due. We have made payments to our recording studio on time, and we have immediately urged the studio to pay our voice actors. Meanwhile, we are also seeking alternative solutions. We will keep everyone posted on further developments."
PC Gamer has contacted Formosa for comment.
Original story: Two voice actors from Genshin Impact—one of the most lucrative videogames on the market right now—have come forward with claims that they've gone almost half a year without payment for their work, pulling their support and calling for the game to become a union production.
Brandon Winckler, who has performed a multitude of minor roles and additional voices for HoYoverse's multi-billion-dollar action RPG, was the first to tweet about the issues they've faced in the last few months. They claimed that they had sent five emails with no response, tweeting "Inexcusable for us as actors to be waiting 4+ months for pay when you have $86 million per month. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon problem".
They continued: "It's really hard to justify working on something for the sake of work when you can't afford to eat. Many non-union productions have this problem, I've waited anywhere from 4-8 months for payment, and even then, it isn't much to ask. 1000 here, 500 there, and it adds up fast". The actor concluded by announcing they "personally won't be working on this game anymore unless it goes under a Union contract."
Around an hour after Winckler's thread, one of Genshin's most prominent voices also spoke out. Corina Boettger—the English voice behind Paimon, the main character's companion who has one of the heaviest speaking roles in the entire game—didn't mention HoYoverse or Genshin by name in their original tweet, but replies and retweets have firmly established that they're referring to the same game as Winckler.
"Again…been working for MONTHS unpaid on a BIG project for a studio. I am owed THOUSANDS of dollars," they tweeted. "I am struggling currently to pay rent because of this. This project has made BILLIONS. This project should be Union." Boettger clarified that they're unsure who specifically is to blame in the situation, either HoYoverse or Formosa Interactive, the studio who handles the English voice recordings for the game. "But regardless," they tweeted, "if the game was union this wouldn't happen." In a reply, Boettger also states that they haven't been to the studio to record "for the last 2 days" because of the situation.
As both Winckler and Boettger point out, their work on Genshin Impact is a non-union project, not covered by any sort of Screen Actors Guild protection, with Formosa Interactive's website stating that it works with both union and non-union projects. It can lead to lower pay rates or, in the case of the two voice actors, difficulty in cementing payment dates. In the replies to many tweets, Boettger in particular is advocating for "all games to be union". Formosa Interactive also happened to be one of the 11 companies who were called out as part of SAG-AFTRA's 2016-2017 videogame voice actor strike.
Many fans have also come out to defend Winckler and Boetttger. One fan points out how huge Boettger's role as Paimon is, tweeting "How is this okay?" TheRedUsagiVO tweeted "HoYoverse is a successful gaming company that earns billions of dollars each and every month from long and short-term supporters. Too bad they can't use some of that money to pay their voice actors who help bring the game to life. Exposure alone doesn't pay the bills."
It's still unclear whether both HoYoverse and Formosa Interactive are to blame, though Winckler has since confirmed that their grievances are specifically related to the latter. I've reached out to Winckler and Boettger for comment as well as HoYoverse and Formosa Interactive and will share any responses I receive.