Thursday, 21 March 2013

John Riccitiello Steps Down as EA CEO

Well, that's a surprise.

John Riccitiello has not been the most popular public figure in the gaming world. As the head of EA he's taken a lot of scorn; whether he deserves what he gets is a matter of debate and honestly varies depending on who you ask, but it's hard to think of EA without thinking of some of the decisions and statements that he's made. That's why the news that came down this week that he would be resigning from EA effective at the end of the month was something that seemed to come entirely out of left field.

Riccitiello is citing the reason for his departure as accountability; not to the fans of course, but rather the finances:

"My deicision to leave EA is really all about my accountability for the shortcomings in our financial results this year. It currently looks like we will come in at the low end of, or slightly below, the financial guidance we issued to the Street, and we have fallen short of the internal operating plan we set one year ago. And for that, I am 100 percent accountable."

Although it's hard to blame a CEO for stepping down for failing to reach the financial goals that he set out for the company, as well as under-performing at the same time, I can't help but feel that this might be ignoring the fact that he was loathed by a lot of gamers, and that his sentiments were often held up as some of the core things that were wrong with the current games industry. Of course it shouldn't come as much of a shock that Riccitiello doesn't really think that's the case: "Personally, I think we've never been in a better position as a company. You have made enormous progress in improving product quality. You are now generating more revenue on fewer titles by making EA's games better and bigger."

Yes, improving quality. That's surely why Mass Effect 3, SimCity, Star Wars: The Old Republic and others have been received oh so warmly or aged oh so well. I'm sure that's why Origin is suffering from the same hijack issue that both Steam and even U-Play had and fixed months ago. I'm sure that's why EA is being nominated, yet AGAIN, for the worst company of the year by The Consumerist.

Perhaps though, this is the time to be optimistic? CEO duties are going to Larry Probst, who has been CEO of the company before, notably before Riccitiello stepped up. Still, part of me wonders if this is merely going to be the "meet the new(old) boss, same as the old boss" scenario, where nothing ends up changing. And even if they do bring someone completely new in, will it be enough to salvage EA's reputation? It's not impossible, but it would be an incredible achievement if it were to be done, that's for sure.

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