I’m a fan of Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic (and its MMO sequel The Old Republic), Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and whole slew of other games by Bioware.
In extension, I loved playing the Battlefield, Command and Conquer, and Medal of Honor games and I have plenty of friends who enjoy Madden on a yearly basis.
Let’s not forget about Rock Band. The Assassins were a real band.
I’m also a user of Origin, an online software distributor of games.
All of these games, developer brands, and services are made by Electronic Arts and I owe it to John Riccitiello for these successes. But I won’t forgive him for EA’s failures.
During his tenure, EA stock has dropped from a strong $60 a share in 2007 to its current $20 a share worth. For sure, he was in charge of EA during the recession and current financial crunch, but he made choices that were not correct for the company.
Along with taking risky development choices like Brutal Legend, Mirror’s Edge, and Spore, Riccitiello made headlines in 2008 when he attempted an unsuccessful takeover of EA’s rival, Take-Two, the publisher of the successful videogame franchise, Grand Theft Auto.
Star Wars: The Old Republic was probably EA greatest strategic and financial mistake of the last three years. Despite being developed by a world class developer, Bioware, being led by one of its founding doctors, and having the setting of one of the world’s most beloved science fiction settings, the $200 million dollar project failed to reach its projected earnings, dethrone Activision’s World of Warcraft, and had promptly gone “free to play” earlier this year.
Additionally, the founding doctors of Bioware resigned because of this massive failure.
But the final nail in the coffin, which has led to Riccitiello’s resignation, was the failure of Simcity. Given starling reviews before its launch, Simcity’s launch night was fraught with disaster. Unlike prior installments in the much beloved series, Simcity (2013) relied that its users remained online during game play in order to interact with other Simcity players. However, on launch night, many users were unable to connect to the service, if they connected at all were met with long queues, and some players reported crashing after making it over the other hurdles.
This setback caused many of the reviewers to reevaluate their reviews negatively and the player backlash against EA was so high that EA promised every end-user that it would bundle another of its titles with Simcity to sleighten the pain.
All of this was not a surprise to many videogames industry insider as he was listed by the Wall Street Journal as one of 2013’s CEOs to fire. You can find the story here.
Thus, upon the certification of Riccitiello’s resignation, Electronic Arts sent out a press release to lighten the blow:
REDWOOD CITY, Calif.—(BUSINESS WIRE)— Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: EA) today announced that John Riccitiello will step down as Chief Executive Officer and as a member of the Board of Directors, effective March 30. The Board has appointed Larry Probst as Executive Chairman to ensure a smooth transition and to lead EA’s executive team while the Board conducts a search for a permanent CEO. The Board will consider internal and external candidates with the assistance of a leading executive search firm.
Mr. Probst has played a leadership role at EA since 1991. In addition to serving as Chairman of the Board since 1994, he previously served as the Company’s CEO from 1991 to 2007. As CEO, Probst successfully grew the Company’s annual revenues from $175 million to approximately $3 billion, led EA into new platforms such as mobile, online and other emerging markets and expanded its international presence to more than 75 countries.
“We thank John for his contributions to EA since he was appointed CEO in 2007, especially the passion, dedication and energy he brought to the Company every single day,” said Mr. Probst. “John has worked hard to lead the Company through challenging transitions in our industry, and was instrumental in driving our very significant growth in digital revenues. We appreciate John’s leadership and the many important strategic initiatives he has driven for the Company. We have mutually agreed that this is the right time for a leadership transition.”
On behalf of the Board, Lead Director Richard A. Simonson stated, “As we begin the CEO search, we are fortunate that Larry, who has a proven track record with our employees, partners and customers, has agreed to assume a day-to-day leadership role as Executive Chairman. He has 16 years of experience as CEO of EA and a deep understanding of the Company’s strategy, management team, business potential and industry trends.”
Mr. Riccitiello stated, “EA is an outstanding company with creative and talented employees, and it has been an honor to serve as the Company’s CEO. I am proud of what we have accomplished together, and after six years I feel it is the right time for me pass the baton and let new leadership take the Company into its next phase of innovation and growth. I remain very optimistic about EA’s future – there is a world class team driving the Company’s transition to the next generation of game consoles.”
So, thus ends the six year reign of John Riccitiello, a cautionary tale that every videogame CEO should learn from.