Logo of the Entertainment Software Association.
|Interactive Digital Software Association (1994-2003)|
|Industry||Video game industry|
|Headquarters||Washington, D.C., U.S.|
|Michael Gallagher (President & CEO)|
The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) is the trade association of the video game industry in the United States. It was formed in April 1994 as the Interactive Digital Software Association (IDSA) and renamed on July 21, 2003. It is based in Washington, D.C.. Most of the top publishers in the gaming world (or their American subsidiaries) are members of the ESA, including Capcom, Electronic Arts, Konami, Microsoft, Bandai Namco Entertainment, Nintendo, Sony Interactive Entertainment, Square Enix, Take-Two Interactive, Ubisoft, and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.
The ESA also organizes the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) trade expo in Los Angeles, California. The ESA's policy is based by member companies serving on the ESA's three Working Groups: "Intellectual Property Working Group", "Public Policy Committee" and "Public Relations Working Group".
The concept of the IDGA/ESA arose from the controversies that the violence depicted in the video game Mortal Kombat drew. This led to a United States Congress hearing in late 1993 where the video game industry was put under scrutiny for the level of violence in games like Mortal Kombat and Night Trap. During these hearings, Sega and Nintendo blamed the other for the situation, citing differences in how they would rate the content of games for players. Following the hearings, Congressman Joe Lieberman proposed the Video Game Ratings Act of 1994, which would have set a government-overseen commission to establish a ratings system for video games, and threatened to push it through legislation if the video game industry did not voluntarily come up with one of its own. Recognizing the threat of government oversight, the companies decided to establish the IDGA to be a unified front and represent all video game companies at this level, and subsequently developed the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) to create a voluntary but standardized rating approach to video games. In July 1994, IDGA representatives returned to Congress to present the ESRB, which Congress accepted and became the standard for the American industry.
The IDGA formally renamed itself to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) on July 21, 2003. The renaming was made to reflect that the associated companies were primarily in the realm of creating entertainment software across ranges of devices, and the new name was selected to more clearly define the industry.Doug Lowenstein founded the ESA. On December 14, 2006, game blog Kotaku reported that he was resigning to take a job in finance outside the industry. On May 17, 2007, Mike Gallagher replaced Doug Lowenstein as the president of the ESA.
Gallagher announced on October 3, 2018 that he would be stepping down as president; current ESA senior vice-president Stanley Pierre-Louis will serve as interim president during ESA's search for a permanent replacement.
In addition to overseeing the ESRB, the ESA organizes the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). After the IDGA's formation, the video game industry had become concerned over the treatment they had received at recent Consumer Electronic Shows and were seeking another trade show venue. The IDGA partnered with International Data Group (IDG) to organize the first E3, held in May 1995 in Los Angeles. The first E3 proved more successful than originally expected, and the IDGA negotiated with the IDG to take ownership of E3 and its intellectual property, with the IDG serving to help handle execution of the event.
The ESA leads in confronting legislation that would be harmful to the video game industry, particularly related to video game rating controversies under the ESRB. Of note, the ESA was one plaintiff in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Ass'n, a Supreme Court case that judged that video games were protected works under the First Amendment in 2012.
The ESA also engages in lobbying Congress. Some of this lobbying has been seen as controversial as to get laws passed that benefit the industry's copyright protection. According to a Bloomberg report, the ESA spent approximately $1.1 million in the first quarter of 2011 on lobbying efforts in Washington D.C.  The ESA has initially been a proponent of the proposed anti-piracy SOPA and PIPA legislation, Red 5 Studios CEO Mark Kern founded the League For Gamers (LFG), which intends to advocate for gamers' interests, which may conflict with the industry protection measures the ESA advocates.  In January 2012, the ESA dropped its support for both SOPA and PIPA, while calling on Congress to craft a more balanced copyright approach.
Gregory Boyd, chairman of the Interactive Entertainment Group at the New York law firm stated, "When it comes to lobbying, the "main industry group" that individual companies defer to is the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), which spent $4.83 million on its own in 2012 -- more than Facebook, Google, or even the National Rifle Association (NRA)."
The ESA also works to combat and reduce copyright infringement of video game-related works for the companies it represents. This is typically done through sending takedown or cease and desist notices to sites hosting infringing work, and working with search engines like Google to delist sites that host infringing files. They also work with law enforcement agencies to train agents how to handle copyright infringement.
As of November 2018, the following companies are members of the ESA
Several companies opted not to renew their membership in the ESA in May 2008, including Activision, Vivendi Games, LucasArts and id Software. This followed from the ESA's option to change in the E3 format in 2007, which significantly reduced the size and venue due to complaints from the 2006 event, but ultimately led to much lower visibility and impact on the industry. The move cost the ESA $5 million and required them raising dues for members in the following year.
Crave Entertainment left the ESA in June 2008 due to its pending acquisition by Fillpoint LLC. As of October 9, 2008, Codemasters has also discontinued its membership in the ESA.NCSoft left the ESA in December 2008, which was believed to be a cost-cutting measure for the company due to its weak financial state at that time.