Video Gaming Trade Group Struggling

Dennis Faas's picture

The Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the video game industry's trade body, suffered a significant blow recently when two leading companies quit the group. They also pulled out of a major gaming showcase.

Activision, producers of Guitar Hero and Call of Duty, and Vivendi, which owns the World of Warcraft series, both decided not to renew their membership with the ESA. They'll also be no-showing July's Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), which the ESA organises each year.

The two firms (which are merging later this year) are the first major players to quit the group. It appears the companies left because management became disgruntled with ESA boss Mike Gallagher, who took over the role from founder and long-time president Doug Lowenstein last year. It's thought they disapproved of his closing the ESA office in New York and cutting back on lobbying, which was one of the major points behind establishing the group.

The firms aren't the only ones giving E3 a miss this year. Several smaller companies, mainly specialising in online gaming, have also withdrawn from the Los Angeles event. It's another blow to the three-day gathering, which upset fans last year by switching to an invitation-only format. Previously, it had been open to the public and attracted 60,000 people in 2006.

In what appears unlikely to be a coincidence, Activision is holding a major media event at its offices in Santa Monica, not far from LA, on the first day of E3. (Source:

Activision and Vivendi's decision to quit the ESA won't be taken lightly. As non-members they'll no longer be eligible for special treatment by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board. That means they'll have to pay a separate fee every time they want a new game rated, a must for most major distributors like Wal-Mart. (Source:

It may be too early to talk of the ESA's impending doom, but to lose the membership of what will, after the merger, be the biggest US games publisher could seriously harm its status as a voice for the entire industry.

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