Entertainment Software Publishing (エンターテインメント・ソフトウェア・パブリッシング), or ESP, is a computer game publisher. It was created in 1997, primarily as a support company for the developer studios that made up GD-NET (Game Developers Network). ESP took the burdens of public relations and sales out of the hands of game studios.
The companies that participated in financing ESP's creation include many GD-NET member companies: Game Arts, Treasure Co. Ltd, Alfa System, Quintet, Sting, Neverland Company, CSK Research Institute, Bits Laboratory, Japan Art Media, and Onion Egg, and also Kadokawa Shoten, MediaWorks, Bandai and CSK Venture Capital.
There were two considerations in the background of ESP's creation:
The first consideration was that after the debut of the 'next generation consoles' - the Sega Saturn and the Sony PlayStation, factors such as increased visual detail and higher quality music resulted in a sudden increase in costs to developing studios. This mainly burdened studios that only had mid-level funding. The GD-NET companies proposed a plan that would allow them to focus their resources on development rather than production and promotion. They created ESP as a sales and public relations outlet.
The second consideration was a factional predicament. ESP was created with the objective of "suppling original works for the Sega Saturn platform", but Square's (now Square Enix) move to the PlayStation, Enix's setbacks in Saturn development, and the withdrawal of third-party support symbolized by the breakup of Time Warner Interactive, brought the Saturn's already poor position into the foreground.
Grandia, which ESP released in 1997, (developed by Game Arts) was the 1st third-party Saturn title to breach 500,000 units in sales. Afterwards, ESP released titles including Giren's Ambition (Bandai) and Baroque (Sting), later extending footholds into the Dreamcast and PlayStation 2 platforms with titles like Record of Lodoss War: The Advent of Cardis (Neverland Company) and Abarenbo Princess (Alpha System).
After Sega pulled out of the home console business and the CSK Group put Sega up for sale, Game Arts bought all shares of ESP. ESP continues to publish under its own name.