Entertainment Software Association

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This article is about the industry trade group. For the space agency, see European Space Agency.

The Entertainment Software Association is the industry trade group for publishers of computer video games.

Statement of Mission

To quote the Association directly:

The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) is the U.S. association exclusively dedicated to serving the business and public affairs needs of companies that publish video and computer games for video game consoles, personal computers, and the Internet. ESA members collectively account for more than 90 percent of the $7.4 billion in entertainment software sold in the U.S. in 2006, and billions more in export sales of U.S.-made entertainment software.

The ESA offers a range of services to interactive entertainment software publishers including a global anti-piracy program, business and consumer research, government relations and intellectual property protection efforts. ESA also owns and operates the E3 Media & Business Summit.


Copyright enforcement and protection

The plurality of the Association's activities, as one may gather by examining the "news room" entries on the Association's own site, are aimed at enforcing member companies' copyrights and discouraging the unlawful copying, or "piracy," of their products. To this end, they maintain a constant outreach not only to the United States federal government but also to governments around the world. This applies not only to wherever American video games are sold but also to those countries where copyright violators might set up their illegal copying operations. On February 7, 2008, they celebrated a significant enforcement action taken by the police in Malaysia against "game pirates" in their country.

Government lobby

Second only to their anti-piracy activities, the ESA constantly lobbies the government to forestall regulation of the video game industry—and, when they deem it necessary, to sue on member companies' behalf to seek injunctive relief against industry regulation, usually on "free speech" grounds.[1]

The ESA Foundation

The ESA regularly raises vast sums for its non-profit foundation, which regularly makes grants to a wide variety of civic, educational, and scientific groups to support programs ostensibly aimed at improving the cultural life of young people who are, after all, the bulk of their member companies' end-users. The exact place of the ESA Foundation in the business models of ESA member companies is not intuitively clear, nor does the ESA fully explain their rationale for having such a foundation, beyond this mission statement:

The ESA Foundation is dedicated to supporting positive programs and opportunities that will make a difference in the quality of life, health and welfare of America's youth. The Foundation seeks to harness the collective power of the industry to create positive social impact in our communities. The interactive entertainment industry supports geographically diverse projects and programs that benefit American youth of all races and denominations and both genders.

Of note is that this effort to "improve the quality of life, health, and welfare" of their end-users does not include anything remotely analogous to the Motion Picture Production Code or any other code of game content.


The Jack Thompson Affair

In a letter (October, 2005) to ESA President Doug Lowenstein, lawyer Jack Thompson offered a $10,000 donation to the charity-of-choice of one Paul Eibler (whose company publishes the especially violent video game titled Grand Theft Auto) if any video-game publisher would create a game in which an aggrieved parent, who had lost his son to a violent attack by a video-game player, would kill several attendees at the E3 Summit in revenge. Someone actually did create such a game, and Thompson refused to pay the reward, saying that his suggestion was clearly satire and never sincerely meant. The two creators of the Penny Arcade Web comic, Mike Kralhulik and Jerry Holkins, announced a donation of $10,000 to the ESA Foundation in response. Witnesses say that a Penny Arcade representative did in fact present such a check at a charity dinner.[2][3]


  1. Official Website
  2. http://www.penny-arcade.com/2005/10/17
  3. https://www.wired.com/gaming/gamingreviews/news/2005/11/69404