Reporter Mike Musgrove digs into the ESA's recent difficulties in today's Washington Post.
Musgrove brings an interesting perspective to the piece, given that he wrote one of the early profiles of embattled ESA CEO Michael Gallagher last September. In response to Musgrove's questions about losing Activision, Vivendi, LucasArts and id as member companies, Gallagher said:
There are hundreds of trade associations in Washington and virtually all feature member turnover and the ESA is no exception.
Increased membership fees due to the scaling back of E3 may be part of the problem, Musgrove reports, quoting Wedbush-Morgan analyst Michael Pachter:
These [publishers] got rid of E3 so they wouldn't be spending money, and they suddenly find they are spending the same amount of money, but without the spectacle of E3. I can't comment on whether the ESA is effective or not, but clearly several members decided that this is not the kind of reward they expect for that amount spent.
For the industry's largest players, those fees could be $4.5 million or more per year. id CEO Todd Hollenshead also cited membership fees:
Our departure from ESA is probably temporary and was not political. It was just a question of other priorities this year that we wanted to focus on... [The ESA] is a credit to the industry.
Hal Halpin, president of the Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA), told Musgrove he knew of two other (unnamed) publishers that are planning to drop their ESA membership status:
Several [other publishers] are unhappy but remain with the organization... It's really concerning for all of us. Anyone who cares about the games business should be concerned about what's going on with the ESA.
Musgrove noted that Gallagher has maintained a relatively low profile since taking over the reigns, and that support was top-tier game publishers seems less effusive than it was in 2007:
[Gallagher's] been kind of quiet since that [September WaPo profile]... After a Fox News show featured an uninformed pundit going off about the allegedly sexually explicit nature of... Mass Effect, some gamers complained that the ESA did not step in to defend the game industry...
While top-ranking game industry executives were quick to get on the phone or respond to my e-mail queries about Gallagher last year, they weren't as chatty this year... Last year, Robbie Bach, head of Microsoft's game division, got on the phone to sing Gallagher's praises. This year, Microsoft sent me a statement: "We're as committed as ever to the ESA, and we look forward to participating in E3 this summer." Nintendo released a shorter, nine-word statement along the same lines.
For his part, Gallagher told Musgrove:
When it's necessary for the industry to have that loud, clear and public voice to defend itself from a baseless attack, I will be there.
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