"We should challenge ourselves to think about the industry," began Entertainment Software Association president Michael Gallagher as he addressed attendees of the 2008 DICE Summit it Las Vegas.
Gallagher kept in mind former ESA president Doug Lowenstein's powerful speech at 2007's DICE, in which he encouraged
developers to "push the envelope" -- and, more importantly, to support their own creative decisions and not "duck and cover when the shit hits the fan. Stand up and defend what you make.
Said Gallagher, "In our sporadic efforts, we have left behind different possibilities for growth and new consumers... Now is the time for our industry to close those gaps. Our industry has arrived -- today's video games are an integral part of the way Americans work, live and play."
Examples of the industry's success Gallagher highlighted include 268 million games -- one game every nine seconds -- sold in 2007, with the "family entertainment" genre evidencing the greatest growth. More handheld gaming systems were sold than iPhones, Gallagher added.
So what comes next? How to build on the successes? Gallagher says despite the significance of what's been accomplished thus far, there's more to do. "We must strive to reach more than the 'magic million,' or the blockbuster 5 million. We're a country of 300 million people. 300 million consumers, 110 million households... our accomplishments must reach more than 5 percent of that population."
Gallagher touted the new accomplishments of the medium in reaching non-traditional audiences -- the senior citizen who plays Wii Bowling
in the nursing home now that she can no longer travel to the real alley is a gamer, he says.
Nevertheless: "We must never forget our base," he stressed. "Avid gamers are always there for us... we also have to look for new ways to keep them engaged for years to come. If everyone is a gamer, our advertising has to reflect that... it has to speak to an audience that's much broader than the traditional gamer. We have to make sure that our products attract all of America as well."
Gallagher also made note of the PlayStation 3's [email protected]
research project: "It's another example of the serious linkages between our games and our economy and the important elements of our society."
The Family Factor
After praising Nintendo for helping move the industry into the mainstream, Gallagher credited family entertainment for recent and future growth, calling parents "partners" in the industry's future and noting that 86 percent of 2007's titles are rated E, T or E10+. "It's the families of America that are our market... we have to keep aware of the line between entertainment and exploitation of this important market segment."
Discussing the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, Gallagher praised their work with retailers. "We've dramatically increased our performance... to the point that we are on par with the box office in the movie industry."
Defending The Industry
However, in the face of the fact that, as he says, "many in the public eye seek to mischaracterize our industry," Gallagher advises the industry to make sure it supports its own interests when it comes to public policy.
"We have to band together to face those challenges," he said, recalling recent defenses made of the game industry in the public forum and against politicians. "The ESA is proud to lead those efforts," he said.
Though Gallagher says the ESA is working to pass supportive tax legislation to improve conditions for the industry, he called on the community to do its part, highlighting the Video Game Voters' Network. "We need to make sure elected officials know how important the game industry, how many of us there are," he said. "We also need to make sure we're encouraging the next generation of game developers."
During the audience Q&A, one attendee asked Gallagher how and whether he sees the game industry being affected in the event the economy continues its present downturn. Replied Gallagher, "[Experts say] our industry does well during recession because it gives more time value compared to movies... and we're creating the jobs that politicians will want in their districts and in their states, and we have to get them to recognize that."
In an American election year, will gaming be in the crosshairs? "We have to be ready to be dragged in," Gallagher said. "We are doing everything we can to make sure that what happened in the past won't happen in the future. We're trying to engage with the campaigns ... but you just don't know. Because circumstances out on the campaign trail can cause us to become an issue... we want to make sure that they're informed. We have to be vigilant, there's no doubt about it."