ESA, the video game lobbying group that runs E3, changes leadership

Exclusive: CEO Michael Gallagher has resigned. He defended the industry from criticism by the White House, NRA and more.

Ian Sherr Former Editor at Large / News
Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. At CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
Ian Sherr
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As ESA's CEO, Michael Gallagher helped lead the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo. This woman is playing a game at E3 in 2017. 

Josh Miller/CNET

The Entertainment Software Association, the group that lobbies on behalf of video game companies and runs the large Electronic Entertainment Expo each year, made a sudden change in leadership Wednesday.

Michael Gallagher, the group's president and CEO, is stepping down after 11 years at the group. In his place, Stanley Pierre-Louis, previously the ESA's senior vice president and general counsel, will serve as interim CEO.

The ESA didn't say what prompted the sudden change and it's unclear whether it was Gallagher's decision. "Together, we have delivered an unbroken string of victories in the states, on Capitol Hill, and before the U.S. Supreme Court, all of which bolster the industry's ability to create and innovate," Gallagher said in a statement.

As the head of the trade group, Gallagher wasn't just its face to lawmakers in DC, but also its defender in the face of national tragedies.

One such defense took place shortly after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, during which 26 people, including 20 children, were killed. Gallagher was part of a contingent that met with then Vice President Joe Biden to discuss concerns raised after the National Rifle Association said without evidence that violent video games contributed to gun violence. (The ESA in turn pointed to research that says they don't). Similar meetings took place in 2018 with President Donald Trump after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 students and staff. 

Gallagher was also involved in battling a California law that attempted to restrict sales of violent video games to minors. The case went to the Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the video game industry in 2011 on free speech grounds.

Aside from his work in DC, Gallagher's most high profile work was as one of the people leading E3, the video game industry's largest gathering, each year. That's when video game companies typically announce big new titles, like when Microsoft announced its newest Halo game this year.

As for where Gallagher will go next, it's unclear. He didn't respond to a request for comment.

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