E3 2008: ESA keynote long on rhetoric, short on attendance

Lobby president Michael Gallagher addresses a sparse crowd amid growing concerns of the organization's future and relevance.

When Entertainment Software Association president Michael Gallagher took the stage for his keynote address today, he did so amid growing concerns over the future the ESA's E3 Media & Business Summit. Just as the industry had become used to the idea that the new E3 would not resemble the massive pre-2007 trade show, the representative body and its head have been plagued by a number of high-profile setbacks.

ESA president Michael Gallagher holds forth.

Namely, the ESA was dealt a debilitating blow when Activision Blizzard--the newly formed superpublisher that combined Guitar Hero maker Activision and Blizzard Entertainment parent Vivendi Games--abruptly announced in May that it was leaving the ESA and would not attend this year's E3. Last night, the publisher unabashedly cashed in on the traditional hype by holding its own press junket just down the road from the ESA's event. Activision Blizzard was quickly followed by a number of other high-profile game companies, including LucasArts, id Software, and Crave Entertainment.

With those events hovering Gallagher took the stage to deliver his E3 keynote, just hours after Texas Governor Rick Perry's conference address drew a tiny crowd at the Los Angeles Convention Center. At that event, which has had industry watchers perplexed from the moment Perry's appearance was announced in May, a sparse handful of attendees--under 50--sat down in an vast auditorium equipped to easily support 1,000.

Gallagher's keynote appeared to have more spectators on hand, although that might have been because it was held in a far smaller conference auditorium. The executive began by thanking Perry for his speech, saying that he wished more politicians supported the gaming industry with the same resolute conviction.

Gallagher then launched into his prepared remarks, posing the audience with the question, "In what year did the television become an accepted part of the American landscape?" He then segued this hypothetical into the assertion that people living in dynamic times are afflicted with a myopic view of their immediate surroundings. "I believe that in some time in the future, we will look back and see that now is the time that gaming is becoming an accepted part of our culture," he said.

Then, the presenter took a jab at former ESA boss Doug Lowenstein, saying, "In my predecessor's time, our organization was fighting politicians, not having them embrace us." Gallagher, a former official in the George W. Bush administration, stepped in as ESA president and CEO in 2007, following Lowenstein's 2006 exit.

Getting back to the games, Gallagher continued, "The evolution of game content is revolutionary, and key to the industry's growth." The ESA head then regaled the audience with a number of statistics, distilling to the point that new genres are fueling a wider acceptance by a broader market. In addition to kid-centric gaming, he noted such serious games as the cancer simulator Re-Mission and antihunger strategy Food Force as fueling the industry's outward expansion.

"The wide variety of content our industry produces will only expand, as researchers find more uses for the games our industry advances," said Gallagher. "Grants to study the positive impact of video games, we have indeed come a long way."

Gallagher made special note of the Nintendo Wii, which he believes has had a substantially positive impact on how the gaming industry is perceived. "Nintendo's Wii has helped revolutionize our industry. By creating games that make physical activities fun, we've tapped into new audiences," he declared, He also called out Sony's folding@Home program, made possible by the cloud-processing power of networked PlayStation 3."

"All this from an entertainment source once considered just a pastime for teenage boys," he mused.

Gallagher then hit a stride with his tried-and-true industry sales statistics dump. Referencing to the game industry's $19 billion US haul in 2007, Gallagher noted, "an astonishing nine games were sold every second of every day last year." He also mentioned that the industry employs more than 80,000 people in 31 states with a total compensation of $2.2 billion, and that figure is expected to rise to 250,000 workers by 2009.

"I believe we are in the golden age of gaming," Gallagher said, saying corporate America has begun to support the industry with as much enthusiasm as the public.

The scene just before Gallagher takes the stage.

However, all is not perfect with the industry, Gallagher cautioned. He laid out five calls to action that he believes will further the industry's interests and continue fueling growth. "We must never forget our core customers," he began saying it was vital to "remember our base." At the same time, the industry must "welcome new gamers," by creating content that appeals to them. The industry must "broaden the use of games," according to Gallagher. Indirectly calling out the string of ESA departures, Gallagher lastly noted that the industry must "unite to support our policy interests."

As the gaming industry's largest lobbying group, that last call to action is the most vital to sustain the organization. Gallagher went on to push the ESA's objectives, reiterating its stance on rating self-regulation by way of the ESA-run Entertainment Software Rating Board. Gallagher praised the ESRB's efforts, citing a recent FTC report that indicated game ratings were more effective at keeping unsuitable content out of the hands of minors than comparable entertainment systems.

Gallagher closed by urging everyone to make their voice heard on Capitol Hill by joining the Video Game Voters Network, saying he wanted "to see the number of registered users hit 200,000 by next year's E3." That is, of course, assuming there is an E3 next year...

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Discussion

52 comments
gmax
gmax

It is almost hard to imagine the industry getting to the point of having its own lobbying arms. An interesting thought I guess. Have to wonder about the future of E3 though. Seems like a lot of time and money could be saved by foregoing the travel and just giving out press releases. Not that many people actually get to try out the games. And if all of them just say everything is great and wonderful, what good does it do? Hmm... Take what we can get I suppose...

arc_salvo
arc_salvo

I like the new E3, it was too much of a disorganized spectacle where companies spent tons of time and money making lavish presentations that cost them a lot but would not necessarily get them enough good press to be worth the often steep investments. Also, no matter how spectacular a person's E3 showing could be, there was no guarantee that it'd help a game sell well or that the hype would ever match up to the way the game played when it finally released. In fact, I noticed that in most cases, the games almost never lived up to the hype and that the spectacle got people excited over nothing. Also, I never particularly cared about the booth babes. They don't make the games that are released better, and they don't help people focus on the games, which is what any Gaming Tradeshow's all about.

leofiregod
leofiregod

they need to change things back the way they used to be. Babes=more people there.

ognen
ognen

Missing the booth-babes :?

maverick_76
maverick_76

I just hope that video games don't take the turn that television has taken over the last couple of years. All I see on the networks are "reality TV," which is actually the furthest thing from it. So much drama and brainless crap, I find myself enjoying shows on the discovery channel, ESPN and even CNN. At least those still have a somewhat intelligent message to deliver to its audience. I'm just so sick and tired of these casual games that keep your attention for all of about 10 minutes. When I play games, I like to be engrossed and immersed in the game environment. I look for an escape from everyday life when I game. If I wanted to play tennis, I would go outside and play, if I wanted to play an instrument, I'd go get some lessons. But I guess that is why I like games like MGS4 and COD4, they take you into another world and let you use your critical thinking skills and hand eye coordination while giving you a Hollywood budget storyline. To me, video games are a virtual reality, something that breaks the cycle and monotony of everyday life, not perpetuate it!

Humorguy_basic
Humorguy_basic

I would say, based on what's happening in video games, that because of corporate greed, we are seeing the end of mainstream video gaming, not it becoming the norm like TV. As mainstream becomes one genre that has first person shooter at the forefront of it, with little in the way of new ideas, we see movement to retro, independent and casual gaming, the anathema of mainstream AAA gaming. The trend isn't toward mainstream video gaming, it;'s away. Mainstream is becoming 'straight to DVD' and outside of mainstream is becoming cable television. I think the future of video gaming is actually fragmentation of interest, which the big publishers will find difficult to deal with. mainstream video gaming is about producing a game that covers every genre with each game, because it needs to sell to everyone. Hence we get RPG elements in STALKER, and we get tactical shooting in Mass Effect, a so called RPG. Everything is becoming an 'action RPG'. With the exception of the odd 'Rock Band' and 'Wii Fit', video gaming is stagnating not becoming more vibrant. And without vibrancy, no entertainment market can survive for long. Those that are vibrant (and that's much more the independent and casual market of today, and gaming of yesteryear (retro), are doing well. In fact better month by month it seems. Even the success of the Wii and DS is about hankering for the retro feel of gaming with gameplay being more important than graphics, like it used to be! And when you consider the next-gen consoles are actually less like consoles than their previous versions and more like 'entertainment centres' (blue-ray anyone?) it's almost like Microsoft and Sony are hedging their bets when it comes to video gaming!

Macgyver40
Macgyver40

video games don't make people freak out

raverrozza
raverrozza

raahsnavj your exactly right. if anything its a date thats needed for the game makers to announce all there new products and beat their chests!!if they start having them all on different dates in different places itll just be a mess. it was bad enough last year having it all over the place for everyone to run about from one place to the next. and @ N-ONE how did it ruin the nintendo conference?? explain?? the ninty conference was poor. spreading smiles and all sorts of disney style rubbish. that market is not the type of people watching your conference. and that bloody woman on stage drove me crackers. no ones that happy. and their new announcments were all expected apart from the wii motionplus which while seems a great product is just more peripherals now needed with the wii. soon youll look like robo cop or the master chief (samus for you N ONE) with all the plastic stuck to you! also i suppose gta is good addition to the DS but frankly nintendo need alot more 3rd parties making games for them to be able to believe their own chest beating.

cooldude03
cooldude03

I don't care about E3 but I care about ESA. Without it we would all be playing nothing but kid games. Support the ESA all you rich ignorant publishers. Help in the fight for gaming freedom.

halosniper52
halosniper52

"mysterylobster" Lol u dumb little noob just stop typing :)

N-One
N-One

Bring the old E3 back, the new one ruined Nintendo's Press Confrence.

truenextgen
truenextgen

Iys kinda all BS anyways, thats why it fading. If you make BS serious and take out the fans. It means nothing.

raahsnavj
raahsnavj

So what is replacing E3? If every publisher does it's own thing that is going to suck. I don't want to have a conference every week I need to listen to. Someone somewhere please come up with a conference that is THE Video game conference for the Western World...

gzader
gzader

Never should have gotten rid of the booth babes.

gbrading
gbrading moderator

Adopt, adapt and improve. These are the things the ESA are going to have to do if they are going to survive. Was rather sneaky of Actiblizzard to jump in on the E3-vibe though.

McGregor
McGregor

It looks like the attendance of this keynote represents the way the ESA is going. It's ok though, they brought it on themselves by eliminating their "core" customers. They aren't doing a great job of welcoming new gamers either.

spiny
spiny

Since E3 "changed format" and doesnt allow public access and has reduced publishers, its gone down hill. And deservedly so. Its funny that he says, "we must never forget our core customers" to a sparse audience, that is sparse because core customers are not allowed into the E3 grounds. Haha. E3 blows.

Hvac0120
Hvac0120

Wow! No wonder the ESA is doing bad...They hired someone from the Bush administration..... kidding aside; You can see the industry growing all around you. I have been hearing the "old" people at my place of work talking about games such as Guitar Hero, Wii Sports and GTA. I've been playing games since I was 5 (and probably a little before then too, but I can't remember). For most of my youth games were for nerds. Only the "losers" played games. Now 23 years later, every cup-wearing jock in the US is salivating over the next Madden, NCAA, or NBA title. Ladies everywhere are taking virtual walks with their nintendogs. Things sure have changed. Is it the "Golden Age?" I'm not sure if I agree with that. We may be at the beginning stages of this, though. It's exciting to know that my favorite hobby is becoming one of the worlds fastest growing industries. Thanks to all the pioneers of the games industry! I appreciate it!

AkzoMan
AkzoMan

80,000 gaming employees in 2008, and 250,000 employees in 2009? Either GS got the numbers wrong, or this guy's numbers are complete garbage.

grambyte
grambyte

I got two words for ESA, Public Access!

mysterylobster
mysterylobster

@ mysterylobster this press conference had nothing to do with EA though You don't think EA is a major part of the software landscape, despite their many faults? Ooookay...

afrothunda312
afrothunda312

@ mysterylobster this press conference had nothing to do with EA though

mysterylobster
mysterylobster

This is ESA-Entertainment Software Association, Not EA. Learn to read. On a side note to ur comment EA is a member of the ESA.

jakeboudville
jakeboudville

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

epormada
epormada

It's true, someday people will look back and find it hard to imagine life without their console. Much like the TV and PC. Everyone I work with is in their 50's and think video games are the cause of a lot of societies problem's. I simply respond to them by saying. " Your right we should ban video games so we can have world peace again." That shuts them up!

ColdfireTrilogy
ColdfireTrilogy

hmm sounds like we need a new ESA to rise out and give us an E3 equivalent that is once again open to the public ... thats what i be wantin to see yarrrrrrrr

Ton77
Ton77

because E3 is now invite-only Not open to those Hardcore gamers and what-not anymore. E3 isn't what it used to be.

halosniper52
halosniper52

"EA sucks, so why did they think anyone would come to their press conference?" This is ESA-Entertainment Software Association, Not EA. Learn to read. On a side note to ur comment "EA sucks" After playing the new ncaa 09 EA pwns. (Even if I hate the whole thing with take-two and them)

mysterylobster
mysterylobster

EA sucks, so why did they think anyone would come to their press conference?

bdavis801
bdavis801

bust bust bust...everything we saw we all the gaming websites called in advance...besides the final fantasy...there really wasn't news... e3 just re-insured that its great to be a 360 owner...good to be a wii owner and iffy to be a ps3 owner...the way 3rd party games keep going to 360... if kojima comes with the mgs 360...im sorry but ps3 is over....only thing holding ps3 together is metal gear..resistance and free online oh and little big planet...lol i love Sony and Microsoft but the ps3 fans better be petitioning kojima to promise to be an exclusive nothing special...nothing at all...

Cowman
Cowman

E3 is a load of Poop these days. Give me grand scale booths, loud noises, booth babes, major hype, games they talk about but never make it out on the market and over the top celebrity endorsements! This Gallagher fellow is a moron. I think he is gov't lackey sent to destroy the gaming industry.

Ritard
Ritard

golden age of gaming my ass. The golden age of gaming was in the SNES days... Golden age of corporate BS more like..

Obliterati
Obliterati

A lousy speech to cap off a lousy convention. What a bust. I'd hope for better next year, but it would take a miracle to get E3 back to relevence now.

856891
856891

ahh the great years before the ''downsizing''

Hungry_bunny
Hungry_bunny

Less power to the gamers, more power to the big developers... the games are great but the gaming world have issues.

WhatTheDunk
WhatTheDunk

What a tool. At least he sees how Nintendo is abandoning hardcore gamers, their conference had absolutely NO news on anything hardcore game-like.

ctburesch
ctburesch

This definitely is the golden age of gaming and it is about time game and hardware sales is now being taken seriously. The WII is a joke though in my opinion. It is a slap in the face to real gamers everywhere. There is not one game on the system that I actually like to play. The graphics are bad and the games overall score a 50 or under on the gamespot score. ...

slickr
slickr

haha, and why is E3 a media event then and not a gamers event? If just 3 years ago, actual people that played games could visit and play the games at E3, its now a corporate media event and every **** crap developer can pay the media to get positive previews and or reviews!

FrankenLife
FrankenLife

One day E3 will die and the gamer driven show that is PAX will reign supreme.

playstation_wii
playstation_wii

No one wanted to hear what he had to say apparently.

somberfox
somberfox

"I believe we are in the golden age of gaming," I don't agree with this. I believe we just passed the golden age with the PS2/GC and are now in the first dark age since the ET debacle. "We must never forget our core customers," Oh! Too late for that. Nintendo has completely forgotten us and thanks to their sales domination the entire industry is likely to follow in the next generation.

Sharvie
Sharvie

Birdman - Indeed. Ever since it stop E3 has progressed downhill.

Birdman1333
Birdman1333

Never forget our core customers (?). Let the gamers back in then.

Agreb91
Agreb91

Lets hope things hold strong and that there is an E3 next year.