Gamers On Trial: The ECA's Hal Halpin on Consumer Advocacy
October 25, 2006 Page 3 of 8
GS: Let's talk about the actual membership benefits. The benefits you are considering, according to the website, include credit cards and…health care plans? I don't really understand the relevance…
HH: It's actually kind of difficult to get your head around, especially from my old gig. With the IEMA, our mission was very focused, and what the retailers needed out of us, especially the top thirty retailers, was very specific. So we didn't need to look at affinity benefits for them, because we weren't going to be able to get the guys at Wal Mart or Target or any of these guys better health care than they could already get themselves, where with consumers, it's sort of a whole new landscape that we're out there pioneering.
I was actually half complaining to Jason [Andersen, ONE PR, also present at the interview] here on the way over, that it's sort of hard to keep my brain wrapped around where we need to be at the moment, because one minute I'll be on the phone with Chase talking about affinity credit cards, and the next minute I'll be on the phone with MetLife talking about healthcare and that sort of benefit, and then the next minute I'll be on Instant Messenger with him [pointing to Andersen] talking about very games-specific stuff.
So those are the things that are challenges that AARP and AAA have. Again, those are great models for us, not just because they're successful, but also because they sort of have core missions about which they stay true, and yet the also find time to make sure that they're taking care of their members in all sorts of different ways.
GS: Are you talking about recommended healthcare, or included healthcare?
HH: Including healthcare is an option. One of the modules, the essential business, is that everything you see on the website now is essentially the front-end, and then all of the back-end stuff, which will be the more robust part, is all ASP and modular based, and we'll be rolling out starting Q1 or Q2 one module at a time. And so in the insurance module, hopefully we'll be providing that kind of access to that kind of insurance that they wouldn't be able to get on their own.
GS: Like group benefits, basically?
HH: Yeah. Right now I think I've got pretty good healthcare for my family, and we usually go to the doctor when we want to, and it's still nowhere near as competitive as we've been hearing back from the three majors that we're talking about. So it could be huge. It could be really beneficial to the average gamer who may or may not have their own benefits, this could be a real opportunity.
GS: This is kind of a silly question, but have you talked about those specific areas that would need to be targeted for gamers, like eyesight, or chiropractic stuff?
HH: When I met with the brokers, I told them to try to get us the most robust package that they could get. Usually you can get a better package the more defined you get, but since we don't know who are consumer is and who our members are going to be, for the next three to five years we'll be experiencing that as it happens. So I said to go out and get the best you can get for everyone. So as much as we can get, as deep as we can get, and at the cheapest we can provide.
GS: This may be premature, but what kind of demographic are you expecting now and in the future?
HH: I think that my initial anticipation was that we were going to get, you know, GameStop employee kind of people, who are hardcore console, but not necessarily online gamers or casual gamers. And it ended up being a lot more online people, and even more hardcore people; over the course of the first week, anyway. And I think that may be to the credit of Jason here, because there were so many online stories, and the print books haven't hit yet. Every time a story hit, we saw a spike in membership.
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