Gamers On Trial: The ECA's Hal Halpin on Consumer Advocacy
October 25, 2006 Page 4 of 8
GS: What kind of numbers are you expecting?
HH: So far we've been seeing one per hour which, when I talk to my advertising brethren, they say it's a pretty good rate. So…I don't know. It's sort of the 100 million dollar question for us internally as we try to plan both financially as well as in terms of organizationally. We're trying to figure out, because there's nothing similar to this, again, anywhere else in the entertainment industry, where…where do we go? How quick is this growth going to happen? What I can tell you is that a lot of the marketing that we're doing will be in Q1, so we'll probably have a much better idea in Q2 – March, April, May – about how well we're penetrating into our market.
GS: How are you going to make sure that you're actually advocating what your members are wanting? Like, are you going to be able to support specific initiatives that will be voted on, or…?
HH: It may end up getting that specific. I'm not sure that we'll be there for a while, mainly because we're going so broad that pretty much any anti-gamer or anti-games legislation, we're going to be out in front of. And hopefully before our members know about it we'll be out there already fighting against it. But certainly there could be issues that crop up in the future that they either bring to our attention or we realize is sort of a parallel issue that we wouldn't have thought was inside of our scope.
GS: And are you
thinking at all of partnering, or have you partnered with the ESA or
ESRB-type people to present some kind of unified front of game-related
HH: Absolutely. In my last role at the IEMA I worked very closely with the ESA, with the ESRB and with IGDA, and I think we work most effectively when we work together. The ECA isn't really "industry" anymore, but going forward with sort of common goals and common initiatives is really impactful. I can see it work at the state level, I've seen it work in the media, where a journalist – in the mass media, especially – will call up and say "Oh, I'm just following up on a story on how you people try to murder everyone, and you make this insane stuff that influences our children." And they spend time on the phone with me, and Jason [Della Rocca, IGDA] and Pat [Patricia Vance, ESRB], and when they're done with the story it isn't as sensational. We probably didn't turn them around 100 percent, but the story wasn't anymore about the sensationalism. That coalition building is really important for us throughout.
GS: And how are you anticipating teaming with the parent side of things, because it seems that with a consumer organization, you might be in a better position to inform parents. That seems like a big deal, parents versus evil video games. What are your thoughts about how to deal with that?
HH: Funny that you mention that! We have a press release that we're dropping Wednesday. We got called early on when we were deciding to the sort of initial building of the ECA, and publishers in general were trying to find out how they could be helpful, because they were excited about the fact that consumers were in power to get in the fight. And my response to them generally was, I'm not sure how we can receive any of your funding. All of our funding comes 100% from our members. But what I did say with them is that we'd love to partner with you in ways that we're working together, in ways that you can communicate to your consumers who are our prospective members that we're here and what we're about, and one of the really good feedbacks I got was from NCSoft, who said they had just launched this initiative called PlaySmart.
PlaySmart was this two-sided card. On one side it had information about kids and how they could be safe online and how they could share and what information to share, and on the other side was information for parents about how to be careful with what their kids are playing, what they should and shouldn't be sharing in terms of information online. And I looked at that and said, this is the most responsible piece of literature I've ever seen a company create, inside our industry anyway, and they were doing it purely on their own. And it wasn't like they were out there seeking the PR or for any other reason. And so we partnered with them. There's going to be one card inside every retail NCSoft game, so that every piece that goes out will have the card in it, and the ECA will be distributing it at every conference that we go to.
So hopefully we'll get some attraction with parents that way. The other way is I want to try to embrace parents that are casual gamers. There are a tremendous amount of casual gamers that are from the top end of our demographic that we inside the industry debate whether or not they should be included, whether we skew the demographics or not, and to me those are all prospective ECA members or parents of ECA members.
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