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.
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."