It would appear that financially-troubled NC Interactive (the US arm of Korea's NCsoft) has left the membership ranks of game publishers trade association the Entertainment Software Association.
Last month, NCsoft announced that it plans to shut down underperforming MMO Tabula Rasa early in 2009. Facing a difficult financial picture, NC Soft has laid off a number of employees at locations in both the US and UK. The publisher also recently parted ways with famed Ultima series designer Richard Garriott.
Departing the ESA is likely a cost-cutting measure for NC, which also chose not to exhibit at E3 this year. Game publishers pay significant fees to belong to the organization. While no announcement was made by either NC Interactive or the ESA, the trade association's membership page no longer lists NC among its ranks.
It has been a difficult 2008 for the ESA, which began the year with 28 member companies. As NC exits there are now just 21, meaning that CEO Mike Gallagher's outfit has lost a quarter of its membership in 2008.
As GamePolitics reported in October, Codemasters was the most recent company to depart. Game publishers confirmed as leaving the ESA this year include:
We have a request in to the ESA for confirmation on NC's apparent departure.
UPDATE: Confirmed by ESA Senior VP Rich Taylor:
We can confirm that NCsoft decided not to renew its ESA membership. We respect their decision and remain committed to serving the public affairs needs of the computer and video game industry.
UPDATE 2: NCsoft's David Wofford has told GP that the decision was not a financial one. See our follow-up story.