Last week, SuperData CEO Joost van Dreunen authored a misinformed, gratuitous critique of the Entertainment Software Association and our place in the video game industry.
For someone who purports to trade on industry facts, it is remarkable that Mr. van Dreunen's opinion piece was filled with so many errors. More than one million people follow ESA and our work on Facebook and Twitter. More than one million people joined our grassroots army of voting age gamers who work with us to promote and defend video games. What do these millions of consumers know that Mr. van Dreunen doesn't? Apparently a lot.
Most industry watchers know that ESA led the charge to protect and showcase the tremendous vitality and creativity of video games in front of the United States Supreme Court. Our landmark victory affirmed that video games are expressive works afforded the same First Amendment protections as books, movies and other art forms, providing a crucial foundation for our entire industry.
They also know that ESA works tirelessly to ensure that our industry has a strong voice by building and strengthening bridges with leaders in government, education, and business. Some examples include:
- Promoting games on Capitol Hill: ESA partnered with leading members of Congress, including Democratic National Committee chair Representative Debbie Wasserman Schulz, to establish the Congressional Caucus for Competitiveness in Entertainment Technology (E-TECH Caucus). The E-TECH Caucus now has more than 50 Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle who are committed to educating their peers and the public about video games' positive influences on society.
- Advocating on the wide range of issues that affect our industry. We are active in more than two dozen issue areas, ranging from state tax issues to intellectual property to international trade, privacy and virtual currency - issues that have important implications across business models and game platforms.
- Organizing and directing the largest grassroots community of game players in the world. As I referenced earlier, the Video Game Voters Network is now more than one million members strong. This collective voice, which press outlets have said will be pivotal to the upcoming election, has the power to drive policy, influences Congress, and ensures that gamers are being heard on the national stage. VGVN helps to counter misguided claims about our industry and unlawful efforts to regulate it. They have mobilized around public policy issues critical to our industry's future, and supported lawmakers who appreciate what video games can offer and are willing to partner with us.
- Building relationships with academic peers. It is particularly curious that van Dreunen calls on ESA to "take some initiative and provide some guidance" on partnerships with "esteemed institutions like NYU and USC," considering that we did exactly that two years ago. The Higher Education Video Game Alliance, which ESA helped to launch in 2014, is a platform for higher education leaders that underscores the cultural, scientific, and economic importance of video game programs at colleges and universities. What began as a 20-member consortium of U.S. colleges and universities now comprises 180 universities worldwide. Tracy Fullerton, associate professor and director of USC Games at the University of Southern California and Katherine Isbister, associate professor and director of the Game Innovation Lab at New York University, are both founding and executive committee members.
- Launching the Games for Change Education Summit. Our strong relationships with federal policymakers enabled ESA to partner with the Department of Education and Games for Change to host the Games for Learning Summit in New York City last spring. This day-long event brought together leading developers, publishers, policymakers, educators, and students to identify strategies on how to better create, distribute, and use quality educational games.
- Giving back to the communities that support our industry. The ESA Foundation last year celebrated 15 years of giving back to local communities and supporting the future leaders of our industry. Since its creation, the ESA Foundation has awarded more than $700,000 to help young women and minorities achieve their professional and academic dreams, and has partnered with more than 60 schools and nonprofits to create opportunities for America's youth. This important work includes supporting Children's Miracle Network Hospitals through Extra Life, an annual 24-hour video game marathon and fundraiser for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. The most recent Extra Life raised more than $7 million, an all-time high that pushed total fundraising to an incredible $20 million. These critical funds help Children's Miracle Network provide outstanding pediatric health care to every child in need, regardless of their family's ability to pay.
- Fostering the next generation of artistic talent. We also partner with the Hispanic Heritage Foundation's Leaders on the Fast Track (LOFT) program to offer the annual ESA LOFT Video Game Innovation Fellowship, through which young people of color receive grants to support the development of video games aimed at addressing issues in their communities. These young developers have presented their ideas to White House officials and Members of Congress.
One can easily forgive not knowing one ESA accomplishment, but to miss the sheer volume of accomplishments that benefit the whole industry is just plain bad research.
"ESA's membership has expanded greatly in number and diversity... Our members publish games for every device with a screen-from consoles, PC, and mobile to handheld devices"
This is a serious time for our industry that requires mature and responsible leadership. We are in the midst of an incredibly transformative period, marked by remarkable change and innovation. Social and mobile games are extending our reach beyond traditional platforms; digital sales are doubling industry revenues; and advanced technologies, particularly virtual, mixed and augmented reality, are bending the boundaries of what constitutes a game.
ESA's membership has expanded greatly in number and diversity. We are proud to include the industry's largest players, like Activision Blizzard, Bethesda Softworks, Take-Two Interactive, Sony Computer Entertainment America, and Electronic Arts; console and mobile game leaders like Wargaming.net; international giants Tencent and GungHo; and virtual and augmented reality innovators, including Microsoft. Our members publish games for every device with a screen-from consoles, PC, and mobile to handheld devices. One of the most popular mobile games in the world, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft - which, according to SuperData generates $20 million per month - is a property of Blizzard Entertainment, an ESA member. King Digital Entertainment, which van Dreunen laments is not an ESA member, is in acquisition talks with ESA member company Activision Blizzard.
Undoubtedly, we are best known for hosting E3, which, despite van Dreunen's claim, is the largest, most exciting event in video games, and one that reinvents itself every year. Last year's event - dubbed in many outlets as "the best E3 in years" - saw a roughly 60 percent increase in the number of exhibitors, including 27 virtual and augmented reality exhibitors. They showcased more than 1,600 products, including 100 never-before-seen games, hardware and other items. E3 2015 was also the most engaging in show history, generating an astounding 6.3 million Tweets and 7.5 million Instagram likes. Twitch reported that more than 21 million people watched E3 2015 on their site, which was an increase from 12 million in 2014 and 9.5 million in 2013. These milestones underscore the obvious: E3 has never been in a stronger position; it is the annual high point of entertainment, driving trends and conversations year round.
But, at this point, I'm just using facts to undercut his opinion and there's no elegance in belaboring the point by continuing to list our accomplishments. ESA has been defending and leading this industry since our formation. And, we will continue to protect our industry's ability to do what it does best - create the most innovative entertainment in the world.
I will acknowledge that van Dreunen was correct when he wrote, "The games industry is riddled with people that [sic] hold strong opinions." Thankfully, though, not everyone's positions are as misinformed as his.