Analyzing Activision’s Defection from ESA

Game biz guru Keith Boesky offers his thoughts on last week’s stunning news that Activision and Vivendi have pulled out of the ESA.

While the decision of Activision and several other publishers not to participate in this year’s E3 got much of the attention of the gaming press, Boesky sees the ESA defections as the real issue – and we agree:
 

The ESA is this industry’s most important advocate. The organization’s impact as a lobbyist in Congress is effective, but not really tangible… We can however point directly to litigation efforts, which… beat, every legislative attempt to restrict or impair the sale of video games… If not for The ESA, video games would likely not be considered an expression of free speech…

…many are speculating about disappointment over [ESA CEO] Mike Gallagher… We can expect a less confrontational organization than the old ESA and again, it is too early to know whether it is a good thing. I don’t think Mike’s presence… drove the decision…

 

Activision… simply did not want to pay the fee. ESA membership fees are based on revenue. The soon to be largest publisher in the world will be paying more than anyone else, and it did not sound like fun. As far as the impact on lobbying… Activision… can pay a portion of the money they would otherwise pay in membership fees and target their own issues…

Moreover, we have yet to see whether this action is truly a withdrawal, and not a negotiating posture to revise the fee structure has yet to be seen. If it is a withdrawal, it could signal the end of The ESA as we know it.

Meanwhile, The Escapist offers its take:
 

[Activision’s] walking away from a long-standing industry group like the ESA is not something done lightly… In light of the news that other industry majors are also dropping out of E3, it leaves the impression that the ESA is standing on some rather shaky ground…

 

An imploded ESA… leaves the industry without any form of organized political influence in Washington. With anti-videogame hysteria swirling around releases like Grand Theft Auto IV and Bully while the general public is subjected to a steady stream of misinformation… the lack of a unified voice speaking for the industry could be devastating.

 

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