Posts Tagged ESA

VGVN Touts 500k Members: Does It Really Mean Anything?

Over the last few weeks, the Video Game Voters Network, the astroturf group set up by its parent the Entertainment Software Association, has been touting that it has over 500,000 members. While this number may sound really impressive on the surface, it doesn’t really hold up to reality. Take this graphic it just posted to Twitter:

VGVN Claims over 500,000 Members

500,000 members is a lot but are there really that many? Are they really active and engaged in the work of the VGVN? To answer this, let’s first take a look at what it takes to become a member of the VGVN. Here is its sign up form:

VGVN Signup Form

If you don’t notice something wrong up front, let me explain. To become a member of the VGVN all one has to do is fill in an email and a zip and you are done. No further steps, nothing. Pretty simple. With such a simple method to become a member, then what is to stop a lot of people from joining. There is no risk, no effort. With such a simple form, how do they prevent people from signing up multiple times? With this form, I could sign up with all 8 of my current email addresses (yes I have 8, probably more) and I would count as 8 members. So how do they account for that possibility?

If the process of signing up is so simple, what incentive is there to drop out of the organization? Is there even a way to do that? Does the VGVN have any way to measure engagement in the organization outside of those who simply sign up? Not as far as I can tell. With no meaningful method of establishing activity in the organization, what is the point of touting this number? It would seem that this is merely a smokescreen to make it sound like this organization is worthwhile and effective, when it may very well not be.

But aside from the questionable nature of the membership numbers, the primary concern we should be considering here is how much weight these “500,000 gamers” have in the overall direction of the organization. As I mentioned in the opening, the VGVN is owned by the ESA, the largest lobbying organization for game publishers. What happens when the interests of the gamers represented by the VGVN clash with the interests of the publishers represented by the ESA? Look no further than last year’s Stop Online Piracy Act debate.

For many months, the ESA openly claimed support of SOPA. They claimed it was necessary to protect their members’ interests and profits from online piracy. However, many consumer groups opposed the legislation as it would have had severe unintended consequences for free speech online. Many consumer organizations were in opposition of SOPA except the VGVN. Throughout the whole debate and the site blackouts all over the internet, the VGVN never once spoke up in support of its members. It never once said a single thing in regards to SOPA. Despite many attempts to contact someone at the VGVN, I never once heard back from them. This event showed that those 500,000 members it claims to represent don’t matter when the interests of its publisher controlled master clash.

So what should you do if you are a “member” of the VGVN? That’s up to you ultimately. However, my suggestion is to unsubscribe. I have no idea if that will delete you completely and you will no longer be counted when it touts its numbers, but at least it sends some kind of message. My other suggestion is to join a gamer organization that actually cares about you. One that is independent of any corporate masters. A group like the Entertainment Consumers Association. (disclaimer, I am a member and work with them over at Game Politics as well as other aspects) This group has done wonders over the years to protect the rights and interests of gamers. Yes it costs money to be a member and to stay a member, but the benefits you get in return far outweigh the costs.

Don’t be fooled by big numbers like those touted by the VGVN. Those are mere distractions from what really matters, its record. What does it really stand for and who is it really speaking up for. That is what matters in the end. If it is not 100% on your side, then you should not be on its side.

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Super Podcast Action Committee – Episode 45

Super Podcast Action CommitteeOn this week’s show we talk about Congressman Frank Wolf’s hearing this week to slam video game violence, changes being made to the ESRB, the ESA’s plan for a PSA campaign, the latest SimCity news, and the results of the latest GamePolitics poll. Download Episode 45 now: SuperPAC Episode 45 (1 hour, 12 minutes) 66.6 MB.

As always, you can subscribe to the show on iTunes and use our RSS Feed to add the show to your favorite news reader. You can also find us on Facebook, on Twitter @SuperPACPodcast and Google +. You can send us feedback on the show by dropping a note to superpacpodcast@gmail.com.

Credits: The Super Podcast Action Committee is hosted by E. Zachary Knight and Andrew Eisen, and produced by James Fudge. Music in the show includes “Albino” by Brian Boyko and “Barroom Ballet” by Kevin MacLeod. Both are in the public domain and free to use. ECA bumper created by Andrew Eisen.

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In The Wake Of ESA Support For SOPA A New Advocacy Group Arises

We all know that the ESA supports SOPA. This is absolutely horrid. What makes this even more horrid is that the ESA just last year asked for the help of gamers in their fight to stop violent video game legislation. They did this by creating a gamer advocacy group called the Videogame Voters Network. While the ESA and gamers were united in that battle, the ESA has decided to leave those gamers who joined the organization out in the cold on SOPA. These two interconnected events have left a lot of developers and a lot of gamers fuming. You can see an example of this on the VGVN’s Facebook page (look but don’t like).

But something else happened. Something that has the potential to shake the ESA to its very core. This something started with a game company called Red5 Studios and Extra Credits. Yesterday during the anti-SOPA protests, Extra Credits aired a video asking gamers, the gaming press and game development companies to all boycott the ESA and E3 until the ESA drops its support of SOPA. This is a really great message and one that I think every one should live by. When a business or organization is actively out to harm you like the ESA is with SOPA, why should we give them support? This is a question that Red5 asked itself and it is doing something about it.

Earlier this week, Red5 decided to found a new organization, one that brings both gamers and game developers to the same table to fight together for freedom and the internet. This new organization is called the League For Gamers. In its opening statement LFG said:

League For Gamers was founded by Red 5 Studios and Mark Kern, CEO of Red 5 Studios, who serves as LFG’s President. League For Gamers (LFG) was created on January 14, 2012 in order to give gamers, as well as developers, a voice in Washington and an organization that would serve and foster the interest and e-sport of video gamers and our favorite pastime as played on PC/Mac, mobile and console platforms.

League for GamersI think this type of organization has been long overdue. While we have organizations that separately defend game developers, publishers, retailers and gamers, we have never seen any combination of those interests. This is certainly an experiment I can get behind. When we have gamers and game developers sitting at the same table discussing the issues, we can get mutually beneficial results. While I myself am a member of the Entertainment Consumers Association and still very much support their work and efforts, I think the VFG will be a great ally in the fight against legislation like SOPA and PIPA.

I can’t wait to see what this organization gets up to and who decides to join. Let’s hope it gains the power to influence policy debates to benefit both gamers and game developers.

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ESA Fully Supports SOPA; EMA Supports PIPA

Some interesting news has come along the wire today. The ESA has officially come out in support for SOPA. I received an email stating as such today and shortly afterward, everyone else is reporting on it too. Here is the entirety of its response:

As an industry of innovators and creators, we understand the importance of both technological innovation and content protection, and do not believe the two are mutually exclusive. Rogue websites – those singularly devoted to profiting from their blatant illegal piracy – restrict demand for legitimate video game products and services, thereby costing jobs. Our industry needs effective remedies to address this specific problem, and we support the House and Senate proposals to achieve this objective. We are mindful of concerns raised about a negative impact on innovation. We look forward to working with the House and Senate, and all interested parties, to find the right balance and define useful remedies to combat willful wrongdoers that do not impede lawful product and business model innovation.

This is bad news, although not something I really didn’t see coming. What this means now is that every game company that the ESA represents now supports SOPA by proxy. This is bad. This means that even though Sony, Nintendo, EA etc have not come out specifically on SOPA, they are still considered in favor of this horrible legislation because they are members of the ESA. Even though EA claims to have never taken a position on SOPA it still supports SOPA by proxy.

What needs to happen now is for every gamer, every game developer and really anyone, to write these member companies and the ESA and demand they stop supporting SOPA. no more beating around the bush by these companies. We need to demand answers. If you want some pointers on contacting these companies, you should check out some great advice from Mommy’s Best Games or over at Destructoid.

On a related note, the Entertainment Merchants Association has contacted me to reaffirm their support for PIPA in the Senate but have not taken a position on SOPA.

EMA has endorsed the PROTECT IP Act, for the reasons stated in our news release. However, we have not taken a position on SOPA.

This is almost as bad as supporting SOPA. SOPA has been out for several months now and any lobbying organization should have come to a conclusion about SOPA, especially if it has one on PIPA. I would recommend calling on the EMA and retailers it represents to oppose SOPA as well.

So there you have it. Two of the primary video game industry’s lobbyist organizations and their position on SOPA. I would hope that these companies would come to their senses and switch to opposition to SOPA and PIPA. Both pieces of legislation are bad news for the internet and even gamers. Why anyone would support them is beyond me.

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Did EA, Sony and Nintendo Pull Support For SOPA? Maybe Not

One of the worst pieces of legislation to hit the US this past year was the Stop Online Piracy Act. This bill, if passed into law, would allow for private companies and the US Attorney General to censor the internet, break its security and stop the growth of new internet technologies in their infancy. It does this all in the name of stopping piracy of US intellectual property online. I have been working on an article that discusses the games industry’s view of SOPA based on the information I have at hand, but I think I need to address one piece of that now.

Prior to the creation of SOPA, EA, Nintendo and Sony, along with a number of other businesses and organizations, signed a letter expressing interest in a law similar to SOPA.

We urge Congress to enact legislation which targets those who abuse the Internet ecosystem and reap illegal profits by stealing the intellectual property (IP) of America’s innovative and creative industries. These rogue sites—those websites dedicated to counterfeiting and piracy—put American jobs, consumers, and innovation at risk.

This is pretty much at the heart of SOPA. While this letter never named any specific bill, it would seem that these businesses would support SOPA as well as the general idea of it. However, this is the one and only instance we have of these three companies supporting anything SOPA like. They have yet to send a press release or make any public comments regarding SOPA itself.

What is really surprising to see over this weekend are a bunch of headlines around the internet stating that these three companies, EA, Nintendo and Sony, have dropped their support for SOPA. Some news outlets are coming to this conclusion based on the absence of these companies on the House Judiciary’s official list of SOPA supporters.  While it is true that these three companies’ names are not found, excluding the Sony Music division’s presence on the list, they have never actually claimed to be in support of this specific legislation.

If they never officially expressed support for SOPA, how can we honestly say they dropped their support? As far as I can tell, they are still very much in support of SOPA like legislation, but have yet to get more specific than that. Can we honestly say that if SOPA were to pass that these companies would be indifferent or even against that? There is not enough information to be entirely sure.

However, we do have one other issue to contend with here, the presence of the Entertainment Software Association on the Judiciary list. The ESA is a lobbying organization that works on behalf of many of the major game companies including Sony, EA and Nintendo. Are we to really believe that if the ESA is still actively supporting SOPA that its member companies are not behind that? The ESA is not an entirely autonomous organization. Its member companies have a tremendous voice in the direction it takes. I doubt the ESA would take up such a position without the knowledge let alone the blessing of its member companies.

So with all this out there, can we really say that EA, Sony and Nintendo have pulled support for SOPA? I don’t believe so. Not without an official response from these companies. Until then, the only thing we can say for sure is that these companies support SOPA like legislation and their lobbying group still strongly supports SOPA. So why are we jumping to conclusions based on such weak evidence?

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