What is going wrong at the ESA?

Every trade or industry needs it’s own association. Around 1979/1980 I was involved in founding the Computer Retailer Association in the UK for an industry that had only just been invented. They are essential because they represent the common interest. To politicians, press, the public and many other interested parties. And the association provide the talking shop to sort out just what that common interest is.

Video games is in more need of a trade association than many other industries. Firstly because our products are very badly misunderstood by many (maybe most) politicians and and journalists. And the power that these people wield is such that their ignorance can be, and is, evidenced in actions that harm the gaming industry. We need a common voice to stand up to this ignorance and, hopefully, to educate these people not to act so stupidly.

The second reason we need trade associations so badly is that the gaming industry is immature, so it is always changing rapidly. Just look at the way game product delivery is currently moving from boxed product to digital download. These changes present huge challenges that are often better met jointly.

Thirdly we are an industry that has more than half it’s product stolen. And the governments and police don’t care. It is only by working together that we can build any sort of protection against this company breaking problem.

There are many other benefits but you can already see the importance.

In the USA the trade association is the ESA (Entertainment Software Association) and in addition to the above it also runs E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) and supports the ESRP (Entertainment Software Rating Board). It has done an excellent job and  most companies that can join have.

So it is immensely disturbing that it has suddenly started losing members. Activision, Vivendi Universal, LucasArts, and id Software have all suddenly departed. Losing one would be bad, two would be a nasty coincidence, three would be unfortunately clumsy. But to lose four is very serious. For the ESA, for the game industry and for the companies that have left and those that remain members. There is no smoke without fire so presumably one day we will find out what happened. In the meantime it is looking very bad.


  1. I’m sorry Bruce, I usually like reading this blog, but this is going a bit too far:

    “Thirdly we are an industry that has more than half it’s product stolen. And the governments and police don’t care. It is only by working together that we can build any sort of protection against this company breaking problem.”

    1) You cannot use the word “stolen” or any variation of that, to describe copyright infringement. Doing so skews the whole balance of any reasonable discussion on piracy. Stealing implies loss of property, and there’s no way piracy leads to losses, only to lost sales.

    2) There are no real credible numbers on any form of piracy or any form of lost sales. Anti-piracy organisations usually like to count every download as a lost sale, but this is far too simplistic. Saying more than half of our industry’s product is stolen is not simply unproven, it is also misleading.

    3) Since most piracy in western countries comes from ordinary people who download music, movies and games from the internet, I see no reason whatsoever why the police should be involved in any of that. Off course, when any (criminal) organisation is making money from piracy, producing counterfeit products, then I’m all for action by police and/or justice.
    However, copyright infringement on a “personal scale” is not anything the police should even remotely be concerned with, because it is a matter between the content producer and the pirate. If the government would start meddling there, it would be a sliding scale. If copyright infringement of movies or games should actively be tracked down by the police, why not also plagiarism? Or patent infringement? In fact, why don’t we task the police to look at everything everyone creates or reproduces, to see if there was any form of infringement of anyone else’s intellectual property?
    The answer is off course that the police would neither have the time nor the manpower to do that, but it’s also that it’s none of their business. That’s why IP falls under private law, not criminal law. Private law gives IP holders more than enough options to take on infringement, if they can prove infringement took place. The problem is that this is really hard with “personal scale” piracy, but, that is no reason, nor would it help, to make IP law criminal law. Perhaps it might be reason to change laws so discovery of evidence would be easier, but I see no reason at all why the money of tax payers should be spent on helping private companies thrive.

    I think discussion of IP and piracy and it’s effect on the industry is very important, but what your doing in the quoted paragraph makes a reasonable discussion a lot harder.

    And just for the record, I work at a game development studio, and we mostly develop for one of the most pirated platforms, NintendoDS.

  2. Bruce, if you can’t learn the rules of when to use an apostrophe in “its/it’s” I shall have to boycott this blog.

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