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NCSoft Ditches the ESA

The ESA, which runs the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), confirmed today that NCSoft has left the ranks of the organization. NCSoft is the Korea-based parent company of Americas NC Interactive, who last month announced that they would be shutting down their less than successful MMORPG Tabula Rasa. This combined with layoffs and the departure of the legendary Richard Garriott has left the publisher in a weakened state.

Being an ESA member isn’t exactly cheap. Software developers and publishers pay out the nose to be a member of the organization. However, this has been the subject of scrutiny over the last several months. Of the 28 members the ESA had at the beginning of 2008, seven members have now left. These include companies like Activision, id Software and LucasArts. If anything, NCSoft leaving the ESA is likely a cost-cutting measure. The same goes for other companies, who upon leaving the organization stressed that they still shared the ideals of the ESA, and could potentially rejoin in the future.

While NCSoft may be hitting some rough times, the ESA is a major crisis. In an effort to attract more positive press, the ESA may be expanding E3 to pre-2007 levels, which would mean bigger booths, more people, and more money. However, losing 25 percent of its members in 2008 could make raising funds for the event a challenge.

During these tough economic times, is an event like E3 viable? The Expo plans to be at its biggest in three years, but with belt-tightening at an all time high, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see such event be scaled down, or even disappear for a few years.

UPDATE:

NCSoft’s North American PR Director David Swofford has informed Tom’s Guide that NCSoft did not leave the ESA for financial reasons. "While we appreciate what the ESA does for our industry, we can confirm that NCsoft has elected not to keep membership with the ESA for 2009," said Swofford. "There have been many changes in the gaming industry over the past couple of years and, like other developers and publishers, we have decided to wait to see how related industry events and organizations further develop before rejoining. We will be reviewing our membership status on an annual basis. This decision was not financially motivated."

  • hellwig
    ESA decided their fate when they returned E3 to the producers, taking it away from the consumers. It's too little, too late to try to return E3 to it's glory days. What were tickets, like $600 bucks? No one these days is going to travel to San Diego and spend hundreds of dollars they don't have to get a sneak peek at games they won't be able to afford. Sorry ESA, but your best bet is to cancel E3 this upcoming year. With the financial crisis, video games will be the first thing to get phased out by consumers trying to feed their families after losing their jobs. Save your money and hope to recoup after the markets stabilize.

    Sure, there'll be those die-hards who have a little extra cash cause they still live in their mother's basement, but even they might consider saving money to actually buy the games, rather than just pay to see them early.
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  • Yes, the ESA shot itself in the E3 foot years ago and it's dubious wether it can recover from the recent mass exodus of publishers.

    HOWEVER...video games remain one of the cheapest forms of entertainment (per hour) available. In the economic crisis, big ticket items and travel will be the first indulgences to be cut from consumer's budgets. Video games, as a cheaper form of entertainment, shouldn't experience such a drop in sales. If anything video game software sales would INCREASE as people increasingly look for entertainment options at home.
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  • If anything video game software sales will increase during the crisis as people look for cheaper home based entertainment alternatives.

    IMO they should merge E3, ComicCon, BlizzCon and possibly even Sony's Fanfaire(to provide the comic relief). I'd actually buy a plane ticket for that.

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  • hellwig
    I suppose I misdirected my statement at games, when it should have been at accessories and systems. People will find it harder to afford the next generation of consoles, add-on accessories (like $180 Rock Band World Tour kits), etc... The sorts of things E3 markets. However, I also think the numbers of new games sold will drop. People who already live on tightened budgets will find it even hard to spend $50 on a new PC or console game. The $19 budget bin and used-game market, however, will probably see quite an increase in sales.
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  • mdillenbeck
    However, when you have the choice to entertain yourself or eat/have shelter, many people will choose to survive over enjoy themselves.

    My view of E3 is as one big long commercial - vendors pay to get high profile coverage and wet consumer appetites. Once you make it an "industry insider" only gig, then it ceases to hold any meaning. Price out the media from attending (and by media I also include the bloggers and other smaller sources) and the ROI for the vendors crashes.

    Oh well, just like pen-and-paper roleplaying games and pet rocks, it sounds like the age of E3 has come to an end (or been reduced to a niche at best).
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  • dieseldre2k
    meh they'll all be back when the economy improves. E3 is nothing but a big advertising event. u cant sell games if u dont advertise.
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