Hal Halpin Launches New Consumer Group for Video Gamers

October 12, 2006 -
Wealthy game publishers have the ESA. Big bucks retailers have the EMA. Even game developers have their own group, the IGDA.

It's about time somebody stuck up for the little guy, the video game consumer.

Hal Halpin, who once headed the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association, hopes to help gamers "give their passion a voice."

That's the idea behind the Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA), a web-based consumer group which is launching this morning.

According to a press release, the ECA is designed to "serve the evolving needs of individuals who play computer and video games. This first ever of its kind organization focuses its advocacy efforts on consumer rights, anti-games legislation, and a host of other public policy concerns in addition to providing substantial community and affinity benefits to its members."

The ECA says its mission includes giving game consumers a voice and ensuring that state and local politicians hear their concerns and appreciate their demographic power. The organization is designed to be an advocate for gamers who, according the organization, represent nearly half of the U.S. population, whose average age is 33, and who spend $10 billion annually on their pastime.

Hal Halpin adds:
“The ECA was created to fill a void that needed to be paid attention to… arguably the most important group within the interactive entertainment industry, the consumers. These individuals are the life-blood to this multibillion dollar industry yet they have been unrepresented, until now, which is exciting for myself and the rest of the ECA team as we are the organization that now allows their voices to be heard.”

Set up as a 501(c)(4) non-profit membership organization, an ECA membership will cost gamers $19.99 per year. Today's press release details member benefits that include:

  • news on industry issues and events

  • career and educational opportunities in gaming

  • a chance to voice  feedback on issues and products

  • subscription discounts

  • savings on game purchases and rentals

  • access to game events


Future plans may involve additional goodies such as research, education assets, career assistance and guidance, scholarships and financial aid, and even low-cost comprehensive individual health and life insurance for members.

Going forward, GamePolitics will provide news services for the ECA. We'll have more to say about that at some future point.

Comments

Cool. $20 a year isn't so bad.

Ahhh... THAT's a good news !

I'm glad that there is an association that can defend gamers. Although I respect Doug Lowenstein, he essentially defends the game editors, and I have a lot of reproaches to do to many of them, so I felt uncomfortable being "represented" by the game industry.

Cool, and I'm glad it's Hal who is doing this. I think over all this will be a good thing to focus on. Hopefully they will gain popularity quickly and be able to change some legislative minds.


Also Dennis, I've noticed a lot of spelling errors occuring in articles recently, somthing wrong these days, or just adjusting to Wordpress still.

Hmmm....

You're going to have to sell me on this harder. I like Hal. I like what he's done. I'm glad it's a non-profit organization.

But, really, what's going to make me WANT to spend $20 per year?

Are they going to do a better job of giving me a political voice than VGVN?

What will make some of the benefits mentioned be better to go through them rather do it for free by searching out that info in Google?

If our voices are to be heard by the industry as well as political pundits, what's going to make it better by subscribing than simply emailing companies or chatting with developers on various sites (such as the IGDA site) for free?

Yes, I understand it's bringing all these aspects together in one easy to find place. But what is the incentive to subscribe really?

If it's just discounts, I can search for cupons and the like for free as well.

I'm not knocking down the idea at all. I just want to know what the big selling point to defeat the "but I can do it elsewhere for free" really is.

nightwng2000
NW2K Software

Yess!!!! now all that has to be done is for the ECA to actully do something! VGVN was ghey.

it's time we started having our voice heard.

nightwng2000: I think the major benefits include stuff like:

Game Directory
Through VideoGameYellowPages.com, the ECA provides an up-to-date an online directory of all the companies in the computer and video games business listed by category and sortable by a variety of criteria. This enables our members to find resources quickly and effortlessly.

Employment Resources
The leading job board serving the interactive entertainment industry for over ten years, GameJobs helps connect human resource professionals with job seekers. GameJobs has partnered with the ECA to provide one-stop shopping for all questions regarding education, training, career advice, and recruitment for our members. In the future, we also hope to run our financial aid, student loans, and scholarship programs via this partnership.

Plus there's the goodies you get for your $19.99 membership fee:

-Chance to win a new PlayStation 3 console
-Discounts off of subscriptions to enthusiast magazines and premium websites
-Free copy of new feature-length film "Gamers" as supplies last
-Chance to win T-shirts and other incentives provided by sponsors
-Free resume uploads to ECA's job board site, GameJobs.com
-Discounts on gaming rentals and purchases as available
-Chance to win periodic packaged drawing of prizes (games, accessories, guides, etc.)
-Free or discounted tickets to live awards shows, concerts, conferences and trade events
-Discounts and free trial offers of MMO games through sponsor services

Though mainly I think it's that the ECA, in addition to supporting us as consumers, is going to be putting a lot of those resources you can spend time to find and leave them at our fingertips. That'll overcome a lot of natural laziness.

I might pick up a membership just so I can check out those subscription discounts.

As a consumer group, I think the ECA is in a strong position to provide education about games and, yes, the ESRB ratings system, both to gamers and non-gamers - which is a hugely important role at this juncture.

With so many maladjusted teenagers (and their parents) blaming every problem on videogames, somebody needs to step up to the plate and be proactive about telling parents about how to judge what will and won't be suitable for your children to play, without pushing a censorship agenda at the same time.

I'm joining it. I'm just glad to see we actually have a voice now, which is far superior to the VGVN which will probably end up just being a way to collect our info so the ESA can take us all to court for being pirates. In the end I predict the ESA will fight the ECA in court since Doug E Fresh has made it clear they're going in the RIAA/MPAA direction.

So is the goal having someone to deliver a more politically palatable version of "don't start calling for our heads on a censor bar just because little Timmy's parents are too lazy and stupid to think that maybe Bloody Chainsaw Death Nuns IV is not an appropriate title for a six year old"?

Because, really, all the shrieking is about protecting our children from HORRIBLE VIOLENT GAMES and then the examples they give are for games not intended for children.

Freeman,
ESA versus the ECA.

Sounds like a Vince McMahon production. :)

nightwng2000
NW2K Software

Is this US exclusive? I like the idea of joining an Advocacy group but being from the UK is a tremendous drawback for such things.

Great news. Way to go! My $20 is in the bucket already.

@Nightwing

Too true, my friend. :)

At any rate, when I owned a Suzuki Samurai and used it, I had no problem paying $40 a year to CA4WD to have access to exclusive jeep-runs and raffles and to help keep the land open. Same applies here.

Ok, first, I'll acknowledge that from what I've seen of Mr. Halpin here on GP and elsewhere he seems like a decent person. With that said, my real initial response to this announcement:


I hate political parties, unions, professional associations, Grass-Roots movements, and any and every collection of more than one person claiming to represent group interests. I speak for myself and myself alone, and at the same time no one has the right to voice an opinion for me (before anyone asks, no I don't think a politician is the voice of their constituency. If there's an issue I care enough about I'll -tell- my politician which way I want them to vote. If they make the wrong decision on any one important issue they lose my support and look for another one. If no one's available, I file a spoilt ballot).

Any membership in a group like this means that now, when a member of that group's leadership speaks, they speak with "your voice". Think long and hard about that before you contribute to this or -any- organization. You give them that simply by adding your name to their rolls, let alone by giving them money.

Speaking personally, I'm disgusted and appalled by the number of people in America that just pick a few organizations (NRA, Greenpeace, AMA, APA, Unions, Republican or Democratic Party, EFF, ACLU) to support, then step back and say "Well, I'm part of "xxx movement" now so "I have a voice"" When in fact what they've just done is ceded their vote, voice, and power to someone else.



Even setting aside this issue, let's raise a second point. While as I said I think Mr. Halpin is a decent fellow, there is a natural and inevitable conflict of interest between retailers and merchants (whose goal is to sell the least service/product for the most money and to preserve an environment that allows for the most freedom in pursuing that goal) and consumers (whose goal is to get the most service/product for the least money and to preserve an environment that allows for the most freedom in pursuing -that- goal).

As a -player- of video games, I have common ground with retailers in that I don't want to see them regulated and in that we probably both enjoy playing video games to some extent. As a -consumer- of video games, however, there is no common ground. So I think it's reasonable to ask whether Mr. Halpin, acting as a consumer advocate, would be up to acting -against- the interests of retailers for the sake of this new organization?

@Brer:

I don't think the main thrust of the ECA is to protect consumers from unfair or skewed business practices by the retailers. If anything, it looks to me like it helps to bridge the gap by providing discounts on purchases and subscriptions. I get your analogy about the conflict of interest between consumers and merchants, but that's the great thing about a free market society; price, supply and demand force us towards equilibrium. I know there are other forces at work and that it's an oversimplification, but the point I'm trying to make is that for the most part, these things tend to work themselves out.

With that said, I'll probably be joining too.

@Hayabusa75

You don't think the main thrust of the ECA is to protect consumers (or more specifically, the interests of consumers)? Well, that would be odd, since they say right on the front page:

"Formed in 2006, the ECA is an advocacy organization for consumers of interactive entertainment."

An Advocacy organization is by -definition- one that protects the interests of the people it represents (in this case, game -consumers-, not just game players as I said. People who spend money on games.). I'm asking a simple question: Given the background of Mr. Halpin and associates, are they going to take the position of "consumer advocacy" seriously?

If anything, the "subscription discounts" they mention make me think they will NOT be furthering the interests of video game consumers at all. I shouldn't have to tell you that the discounts and bargains offered by any and all subscription services are basically techniques to coerce the consumer to spend more money than they would otherwise by buying a longer-term subscription that they will be more likely to renew or by convincing them to "try" a subscription when they otherwise wouldn't have. That's not "closing the gap", that's milking the herd. Or to put it more succinctly: TANSTAAFL.

There wasn't any "analogy" there re: the relationship between Merchants and Consumers. That consumers and vendors goals are opposed is a fact, a product of the free market you mentioned yourself. As for the free market fixing everything, history teaches us differently (look at the reason Ma Bell was broken up in the first place, or better yet the circumstances that led to the passage of the Sherman Antitrust Act.). In fact even the tiny subsection of the market we're talking about, game retail, teaches us differently. Prices are fixed across a few large retailers, with publishers afraid to reduce the price of digital distros for fear of offending brick and mortar retailers, and the number of brick and mortar companies selling games has decreased steadily as various chains have merged (Babbage's, Software Etc, and Funcoland become Gamestop, Gamestop merges with EB, etc).

If you're going to join this organization, then so be it. I didn't expect my opinion on this subject to be particularly palatable.

Wow, I now have a voice that politcians will listen to? And all for a measly $20? How wonderful. /sarcasm

Anyway, I think that we need some more detail on what exactly this group will be advocating because while it is nice to say that you will be representing gamers things get hairy when specific issues need to be addressed. The last thing anyone should want is to join a group and then find out that the group has different feelings about certain issues than you do. Basically like Brer pointed out.

Frankly, until I see otherwise, I see this as nothing more than a feel good organization that will herd gamers together in order to make money off of them, and use their membership to promote its own ideology. Realistically, unless they have votes where the majority decides what side of an issue to be on gamers will just be subject to the will of the group leader who has yet to detail where the group stands on the issues.

I joined the ECA via their web site this morning. This group is long overdue, and I hope to help them immediately and in the immediate future.

I am very pleased that the injuction request in Oklahoma, where I currently reside, was upheld. Unfortunately, I am not aware of any concentrated effort against HB 3004 by individual gamers. In fact, my close friend, who works for our current Speaker of the House, informed me that I was the only person who ever expressed an objection to the bill. Since I fear there will be another attempt at a game violence bill by one of our other elected or soon-to-be representatives or senators, I hope to become involved in organizing a local chapter right away.

Also, congratulations to Dennis McCauley on becoming the Political Editor for the ECA web site. I visit GamePolitics every day, and I have no doubt you are the right person for the task and well deserving of Hal's selection. Congratulations!

@Brer:

What it says on the front page is vague. All I was saying was that I didn't think the ECA was organized specifically to create an adversarial relationship between its members and retailers, that's all.

Also, you're pretty cynical about the discounts and whatnot; I pretty much just see it as the CostCo principle: you get more when you buy bulk. If a person is dumb enough to buy too much of anything just because of a "sale", that's their own fault, not the businesses that offered the deal, good or bad.

The free market economy isn't flawless, but I never said it was. I said it works out "for the most part". I prefer it over communism, at least. And why are you talking about publishers and retailers? I thought the issue was retailers and consumers.

@Hayabusa

All mission statements are vague. That doesn't mean you should ignore them or not expect an institution to live up to its stated goals. Again, the ECA doesn't have to create an "adversarial" relationship, because that is the core nature of the relationship between seller and buyer: The best-case scenario for the buyer is getting product from the seller at zero cost, while the best-case scenario for the seller is getting money from the buyer for zero product, and short of theft or scams the transaction ends up somewhere between the two extremes with both parties partially satisfied.

As for Coupons, Subscription, and various members-only/loyalty programs, I'm being realistic, not cynical. If you don't believe me then read a few basic articles or books on marketing and business strategies (look for the information . Start with these:
http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/printthis/77382.html
http://couponing.about.com/od/smorgasbord/a/loyaltysurvey.htm

If you're smart and careful and don't buy anything you weren't going to buy -anyway- you might end up saving money by taking advantage of deals, but most of the time the net result is an increase in the amount of money you spend because they're able to upsell (that is, get you to buy more than you would otherwise, such as a longer subscription), cross-sell (get you to buy more products from the company), etc.

I mention publishers because they're the one's distributing the product that we, as consumers want. Even then they're still middle men between us and the developers that actually make the product. Every link in the chain between the producer of good or service and the consumer increases the price. In many cases this is unavoidable since it's inconvenient for me to do business, say, directly with the auto plant in Peoria that produces the Toyota I want to buy. However, as distribution services and technology get more and more advanced, it becomes possible to cut out the middle men from the chain and do business directly. I might not be able to buy my new PC components from the factory, but I can get them from OEMs at the same prices CompUSA buys them for before resale. To go back to games, with internet stores there's no reason not to simply buy games directly from the developer or publisher with the only intermediary being the factory that produces the DVDs and UPS or the Post Office (or in the case of digital distribution, not even them). But my point is that even if you -do- that, cutting out several links in the chain, the prices don't decrease because they've been fixed at a set level so as not to alienate the retailers.

It's true that the margins on new computer and video games suck for publishers and developers (I seem to remember seeing a breakdown that showed them making seven or eight dollars on a $50 purchase from a retailer), but again that could be alleviated by cutting out the middle men, by creating additional revenue streams (selling old games online, for example).

In any case my basic point, that consumers and retailers have opposing motivations and goals, remains. An organization that is a strong advocate for one group will eventually have to act against the best interests of the other at some point. Mr. Halpin and his associates have traditionally acted as advocates for retailers, which calls the ability and willingness of the ECA to act in the interest of consumers into question.

I personally think that this is a very good idea. Gamers have had a lot of trouble lately, seeing as to how we have had no one to represent us. We have people representing the video game industry, but not the consumers, not us the gamers. What I think some of you may have failed to realize though is that this is going to get a lot of its power from us, from the gamers- the more of us that join on the more serious they'll be taken and the bigger influence. This helps gives us a voice, which the gamers have been extremely lacking in in a political world that is getting more and more violent towards video games in general. I think $20 is more than worth it and i will definitely be joining.

Well, here's a quick litmus test of my accusations. EA's bundling extremely intrusive spyware with Battlefield 2142. Let's see how long it takes the ECA to take up its mantle of consumer advocacy and speak out on our behalf on this particularly noxious bit of business...
 
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ZippyDSMleeIf publishers didn't play the region lock game then it would not be an issue.Tho I have seen more russian/chec games than asia ones on ebay.If they do not like it then mabye lower thier region prices to make alitte vrs none.09/22/2014 - 9:54am
MaskedPixelantehttp://hexus.net/gaming/news/industry/74981-pc-game-code-stripping-widespread-says-report/ Thievery, or perhaps the very idea of capitalism? You decide!09/22/2014 - 9:47am
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james_fudgeI reiterate now - not one email to-date.09/22/2014 - 8:37am
james_fudgeAnd this: https://archive.today/uIjwE09/22/2014 - 8:37am
james_fudgeLet me put this here: https://archive.today/hbtQJ09/22/2014 - 8:35am
InfophileRelevant to this site: http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/015984.html#015984 - Apparently allowing comments to be downvoted leads to worse behaviour09/22/2014 - 6:18am
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MechaTama31quik: But even if it did break, at worst it is only as bad as the powder. Even that is assuming that it is dangerous through skin contact, which is not a given if its delivery vehicle is a syringe.09/21/2014 - 4:30pm
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