Gamasutra's Question of the Week feature has returned, with the first inquiry addressing the role of the Entertainment Software Association, which has recently suffered from an apparent lack of interest on the part of several major developers.
From an external point of view, the organization has suffered several bumps in recent times. Following a highly-publicized downsizing of the E3 game show, which the ESA helps to fund and organize through its members, ESA founder Doug Lowenstein left his post as president of the organization last year
, to be replaced by Mike Gallagher.
Over the past few months, major companies Activision, Vivendi
, and id Software
have left the organization, which is a voluntary peer-based association "dedicated to serving the business and public affairs needs" of game publishers.
As the Association itself
explains of its mission: "The ESA offers a range of services to interactive entertainment software publishers including a global anti-piracy program, business and consumer research, government relations and intellectual property protection efforts."
The full question read as follows:
In the wake of the recent high-profile departures from the Entertainment Software Association, what changes does the ESA need to make to better serve its members and show its relevance, if any? As an industry professional, what do you think the ESA's role should ideally be for our industry?
The general tone of most of the replies seemed to indicate that respondents do not have a strong grasp of the organization's duties are.
This may point to why a number of members are opting out, or alternatively to the fact that, as largely a publisher-facing organization, the ESA does not interact with the majority of the industry.
Three of the key responses are highlighted below - one asking for more concentration on PC piracy from the ESA, one asking about proactive support from the organization - which does, to be fair, run the Video Game Voters Network
and issue surveys on the game business - and the third providing a more holistic view.
The ESA And PC Piracy?
"I would hope that one of the goals of the ESA is to fight PC piracy. It seems like Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo do a decent job cajoling governments to go after counterfeiters for their products, but no one seems to feel responsible for protecting PC developers.
It is far too easy for me to download whatever new game I want right now. I would hope that the ESA would spend some more of its anti-piracy activism money in order to make this not so easy.
They can spend all the money they want lobbying Washington to curb bills banning indecent video game content, but if they let the PC games market wither and die from piracy, their efforts will be futile.
The console manufacturers will do Congress' job for them when it comes to deciding what people should and should not be exposed to."
- Ian Fisch
The ESA: More Advocacy Needed?
"The idea of the ESA is fantastic. An organization representing the interests of the video game industry is something that is definitely needed. Unfortunately, they have been slipping in that regard.
The biggest problem with their operation is that they are not making a proactive enough effort to spread a positive image about games. Games and the people who play them are slandered and libeled left and right, yet the ESA makes no effort to counter those claims.
The most recent example would be the Fox News/Mass Effect scandal. Every time any game news site asked the ESA for comment, they handed it off to the game's publisher.
Those who rail against gaming have free rein in the press because the ESA will not hold them accountable for their words."
The ESA And Transparency
"It's difficult for anyone not really involved in the process to provide an informed opinion on the topic. As far as I'm aware, there isn't a lot of information about the reasons why the companies decided to leave the ESA.
If I held a prominent position with the ESA, I'd gather as much information as I could. Why did these companies choose to not renew their membership? What about the companies that are still enrolled? Are they satisfied with the services that are being provided?
An organization like the ESA can never satisfy everyone. However, if they haven't already done so, I would open a dialog with several companies to get feedback. That should give them a general direction of what needs to change - if changes need to be made at all.
- Fernando De La Cruz
Readers are welcome to add further feedback by using Gamasutra's comments feature below.
(Please note that the opinions of individual employees responding to the Question Of The Week may not represent those of their company.)