Gamers On Trial: The ECA's Hal Halpin on Consumer Advocacy
October 25, 2006 Page 5 of 8
GS: On the entirely opposite end of the spectrum, or maybe not: last time we spoke, we talked about the difficulty of selling AO [ESRB rated "Adults-Only"] games, particularly on the retail level. I was wondering what sort of benefits the ECA could offer for that audience?
HH: Well, in terms of the retail landscape, I think that that's probably changed with the merger of the IEMA and the SDA. The SDA is much more open to adult content. They're partnering with the Adult Entertainment Expo, and they have a lot of members who buy and sell and rent adult content.
That said, I'm not sure. I just don't know, in terms of the ECA, whether that would be something that we might want to tackle, that our members feel strongly about, above and beyond talking about it. But I do think it's important to inform our members about what's going on.
GS: As far as staff goes, how many people on a sort of full-time basis do you envision being dedicated to the ECA.
HH: I actually gave this a little bit of thought! I’m not sure, because I'm not sure how many full-time internal people are going to be required. I have warned our IT department that there's going to be this need that's going to be expanding, and I was really pleasantly surprised by some of the early members wanting to be involved. "What can we do? How can we do more?" And I was thinking actually of copying the CMP model of sort of empowering them by employing them through volunteerism, and people who have proven themselves as leaders on other forums online, and other communities, or proving themselves through us over time, could be empowered to help on a volunteer basis. So it would put less strain on our internal staff, and allow us to focus on new initiatives, and also leave people who are best at it to do it, rather than us training and developing guidelines.
GS: Are there funding models beyond the $19.99 annual subscription fees?
HH: There are. There are a few other initiatives that we've been working on, including the newsletter and other things that we haven't fully developed yet. However, for financial modeling purposes, we only use the membership at present.
GS: Now, you're talking about distributing these cards in game packages, and placing ads in enthusiast magazines, but these are people who are already, for lack of a better word, "hardcore" gamers. Are there plans in place to reach out to a more general audience?
HH: Yes, though there's nothing in place yet. We have had internal discussions about partnering with parenting magazines and other media that could reach them. One of the conversations I had just within the last hour or two with our PR firm is perhaps us creating documentation that we could give away to media, that they would be able to reproduce, so it wouldn't be a burden on them editorially, and we'd be able to get a) some branding for us, b) a place for parents to go, rather than come to us and to other sources that might not be so fruitful, and c) it gives that readership empowerment and knowledge about what's going on and the issues. So that's one of the new things that we've just recently talked about, actually. We're only a week in! [laughs]
GS: And we're grilling you! [laughs] How has the response been from the development community?
HH: I've noticed some developers whose company names I noticed in the URL from when they joined, but generally speaking I've heard really nice, resounding supportive reaction from both publishers and developers. I've come to know a handful of developers from having gone to GDC and speaking on panels, and just sort of walking with my eyes open, because my fifteen year career is pretty much on the opposite end of the industry from them.
So every year I go to GDC just trying to learn more and trying to understand more. That leads to me knowing very few people on the development side, and so the ones I know I try to look regularly to for feedback. So…so far, so good! I think probably the whole industry, regardless of where you are, is in this sort of wait and see mode. Like, oh, this is really interesting, this has a lot of potential, this could be great…now, let's see you do some stuff!
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