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ESA member fees up 1600% since 2006

Membership fee hike replaced revenue from scaled down E3 event

The Entertainment Software Association, the US publishers' trade group, raised membership fees by 1600 per cent over the past two years.

The hike has been attributed to the gradual decline of the E3 event, which had been the main source of funding for the group, according to a report by GameSpot.

While the ESA's reported income remained relatively consistent, with the latest reported to be USD 28.21 million, down from USD 29.02 million the previous year, the organisation saw wild fluctuations on where the majority of its funds came from.

The group had derived around USD 18.46 million from the E3 event in 2006, which represented the last of the large-scale shows put on by the organisation. In 2007, E3 was moved to Santa Monica and downsized from more than 60,000 attendees to roughly 5,000, which saw its contribution to revenue shrink to USD 3.49 million.

Membership fees now bring in USD 17.41 million, up nearly 400 per cent year-on-year from USD 4.47 million, and up 1600 per cent from the previous year's total of USD 1 million.

The hike in fees caused the defection of high-profile members such as id, Activision and LucasArts, with its total number of members dropping from 28 to 20, over the past year - most recently with the desertion of Midway.

Earlier this month, Dan Hewitt, senior director of communications at the ESA, told GamesIndustry.biz that the group would bring back the "glamour and sizzle of 2005 and 2006", without the "over-the-top excess".

Last year's E3 event drew in criticisms from key industry figures, such as EA's John Riccitiello and Ubisoft's executive director Alain Corre.

The decision to move E3 to Santa Monica cost the ESA USD 5.4 million in event-cancellation fees, and more than USD 323,000 when it decided to move the show back to the Los Angeles Convention Centre.

In addition, the past year saw an increase in fees paid to the ESA's Entertainment Software Rating Board, up to USD 5.18 million, a jump of 48 percent from USD 3.5 million. Meanwhile the group continued to claim back money from failed attempts to pass anti-constitutional videogames legislation, with USD 501,000 coming from "litigation recovery."

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James Lee