In a sense, this year's E3 Media & Business Summit was defined not so much by those who were at the Entertainment Software Association's annual trade show, but by those who weren't. Leading up to the one-time premier US industry event, game makers such as Activision Blizzard, LucasArts, id Software, and Crave opted out of their memberships with the ESA. Others, such as NCsoft and Foundation 9, said that though they planned to remain in the industry body, they'd be skipping this year's show.
Today, both NCsoft and the ESA have confirmed for GameSpot that, for the time being at least, the game maker will not renew its membership in 2009.
"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 an NCsoft representative. "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."
"We can confirm that NCsoft decided not to renew its ESA membership," said ESA senior VP of communications and research Rich Taylor. "We respect their decision and remain committed to serving the public-affairs needs of the computer and video game industry."
E3 has begun to face mounting competition from a variety of industry events in recent years. In addition to overseas trade shows such as the Leipzig Games Convention and Tokyo Game Show, E3 has seen domestic challengers from the likes of the Penny Arcade Expo as well as dedicated events put on by individual publishers.
Furthermore, E3 itself has been on the ropes since 2006, when the ESA said that it would be drastically downsizing the event and moving it out of the Los Angeles Convention Center to a more intimate Santa Monica venue. As a result, crowds were cut from their 2006 high of roughly 60,000 to an invite-only crowd of 5,000 by 2007. The new format was not to the liking of a number of top-line publishers--namely EA and Ubisoft--and the ESA has continued to tinker with the format in the subsequent years, moving the show back to the LACC in 2008 and rescaling the event upward for 2009.
For NCsoft's part, the South Korean publisher has fallen on hard times of late. In the face of dismal profits, NCsoft said last month that it would be parting ways with celebrity game designer Richard Garriott as well as shutting down his commercial flop Tabula Rasa at the end of February.