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You Won't Have John Riccitiello to Kick Around Anymore

EA's beleaguered CEO has stepped down from the company.

The now former EA CEO John Riccitiello.

Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello has stepped down from his role in the company, the publisher announced today.

In his place, current board chairman and former CEO Larry Probst has stepped up to man the company as the board searches for Riccitiello's replacement.

The announcement came in the form of a press release (which can be read in full here) in which Probst thanked Riccitiello for his efforts, but stated that the two "mutually agreed that this is the right time for a leadership transition."

Riccitiello's departure is an intriguing, but not unexpected one. The now former CEO had come under some scrutiny after several big budget EA projects--including the $200 million sinkhole that was Star Wars: The Old Republic--failed to meet expectations.

We've reached out for further comment from EA. We'll update this story if/when more becomes available.

Here's his full resignation letter, per an SEC filing:

March 17, 2013

Mr. Larry Probst

Chairman Electronic Arts

Dear Larry,

I hereby offer my resignation as CEO of Electronic Arts effective with the end of our Fiscal Year 13 on March 30, 2013.

This is a tough decision, but it all comes down to accountability. The progress EA has made on transitioning to digital games and services is something I’m extremely proud of. However, it currently looks like we will come in at the low end of, or slightly below, the financial guidance we issued in January, and we have fallen short of the internal operating plan we set one year ago. EA’s shareholders and employees expect better and I am accountable for the miss.

I have been at the helm as EA’s CEO for six years and served as COO for nearly seven years starting in 1997. I know this company well, and I care deeply about its future success. I leave knowing EA is a great company, with an enormously talented group of leaders and the strongest slate of games in the industry. I could not be more proud of our company’s games, from Battlefield and FIFA, to The Simpsons: Tapped Out and Real Racing 3. We have built many great franchises that will serve the company well in FY14 and beyond. In particular, I am confident that the investments we have made in games for next-generation consoles will put EA in a strong leadership position for many years ahead.

In offering my resignation, my goal is to allow the talented leaders at EA a clean start on FY14. I look forward to working with you in the coming weeks on an effective leadership transition. I’m extremely honored to have led this company and proud to have worked with all the great people at Electronic Arts.

Sincerely,

/s/ John Riccitiello

John Riccitiello

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270 Comments
Posted by VibratingDonkey

I vote Jeff Green.

Edited by hermes

@chose said:

@efesell said:

@chose said:

It's all Sim City. Losing money is one thing, losing trust and confidence is everything.

If losing trust and confidence were enough then the EA offices would be a crater right now that instantly killed anything that walked near it.

There's a fundamental difference between internet trolls and real life consumers and investors.

It might have been the straw that broke the camel's back, but I seriously doubt it was a decisive factor. I think he has his resignation redacted ever since SWTOR failed to fill everyone's expectations.

Posted by Shingro

Idly curious, has Kotick actually done much bad recently? Feels like I haven't heard of much evil out of Activision for ages.

I mean, they're not exactly the world's most innovative studio, but they seem to be relatively harmless to the wider gaming market. (I don't lay the Diablo auction house at Acti's feet, Blizzard would have been crazy not to try to tap the market for gold/items/etc. Even they can't get it right every time.)

Edited by EXTomar

@droop said:

Why is signing off with /s/? All I could think off was 4chan /s/

The /s/ is supposed to be how you signify in the electronic copy that the text is a signature.

Posted by Blackout62

Come the 30th John Riccitiello will walk out the front doors of EA Redwood Shores to his car at the visitor's parking space he had to use as they repaint the CEO spot. He'll take one last look at the building with a wistful sigh. Then the cry from an anonymous employee will be heard inside: "NOOO!!!! The Simcity servers are down again!" John will then dive into the drivers seat of his car, peel out of the lot and gun it all the way to the 101.

Posted by bledsoe9mm

@torrim: simcity has nothing to do with it ? probably the straw that broke the camels back , having to give away a 40-60$ game kills the profit in the short term .

Edited by Hunter5024

I know that there's this huge negative perception of Riccitello as chairman of EA, but I think this news sucks. Every time I've ever read an interview with the guy he always seemed more interested in making quality games than other people in similar positions (Kotick). Under his leadership we had Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Dead Space, and Mirrors Edge, and there wasn't a damn thing EA was doing 7 years ago that was anywhere near as interesting as those.

Posted by tourgen

well I doubt he was the root of all of the DLC and online pass nonsense they've been pushing. but hey, you got to start swinging the axe somewhere.

Edited by VACkillers

@zerdune said:

This is exactly why he had to go.... regardless of the catastrophe of what happened with SimCity, this business model as a whole is completely ridiculous and simply doesn't win you any fans, it stops people from buying games with the EA brand on the side of the box, and the firing of this man could not have come any quicker in my opinion, but this wont change anything substantially at the core business model of EA. but this guy really was a complete douche and has destroyed many series of games that have fallen under the EA name.

Edited by Palaeomerus

He wasn't Eeeeevil enough. He was the " Diet Coke(TM) " of evil. JUST ONE CALORIE!

Edited by Torrim

@bledsoe9mm: I'd bet that's too recent to have any real impact. Also, the giving away of a free game isn't really taking a hit in profit, considering those games aren't necessarily lost business. I can't imagine people playing sim city were inches away from buying a full priced Dead Space 3. It's nice to have a free game, but I'd imagine that when sales numbers come out EA will look at Sim City as a financial success and largely ignore the internet backlash, even if the outcry for shit service is totally warranted.

When I think of what made him leave, my money is on The Old Republic as being the biggest and most significant factor in his departure.

Posted by Scotto

@torrim: simcity has nothing to do with it ? probably the straw that broke the camels back , having to give away a 40-60$ game kills the profit in the short term .

No it doesn't - they strategically choose games that are trailing off sales-wise, or dead. You're only losing notable profit, if the people you're giving the digital product to would have bought the game otherwise. I bet less than 10% of the SimCity owners they give a free game to, actually represent lost revenue potential.

The end of the fiscal year is nigh, and that's why Riccitello is stepping down. EA have had a terrible couple of years, with SWTOR, their diminishing of the Bioware brand in general, and lackluster sales with major investments like Dead Space. He's been a dead man walking for months.

Edited by Jimbo

Posted by GasparNolasco

Wait... So that voting with your wallet thing worked!?

Edited by MrSlapHappy

And then EA went right back to whatever it was doing. Different figurehead, same BS.

Posted by falling_fast

good. eff him

Edited by Humanity

Wait... So that voting with your wallet thing worked!?

No, just bad business decisions prevailed.

Posted by Bourbon_Warrior

@jimbo said:

NO! This is the man that brought microtransactions to all the EA Sports games, which lead to infecting the industry.

Edited by cikame

Disturbed me abit that he was only most proud of the financially successful games, but i guess that's the way it is.

Posted by Jimbo

Wait... So that voting with your wallet thing worked!?

I guess. SWTOR, DA2, ME3, SimCity was a pretty bad streak of embarassing messes. They'll only have FIFA left if they carry on the way they're going.

Edited by Sweetz

@efesell said:

It seems to be doing really well on its F2P model at least. An initial disappointment certainly but it's rebounding somewhat.

Source? I don't have reason to disbelieve, I'm just sort of academically interested in the game and the last news that I remember is that they were below 1 million subscribers when it went F2P. I haven't really heard anything about it since then.

Of course with it being F2P now I realize that subscriber or playing count isn't really the measure of success.

Posted by l4wd0g

"Stepped down" is corporate speak for fired...

Edited by Kevin_Cogneto

"I could not be more proud of our company’s games, from Battlefield and FIFA, to... blah blah blah, etcetera etcetera etcetera. Fill in the rest yourself, Mary, just pick some games at random, I could give two shits. I'm going golfing."

On a completely unrelated note, what's Trip Hawkins up to these days?

Posted by TechHits

@p_p_o_d said:

Finally a EA release that I am satisfied with

oh snap

Posted by jakob187

In all honesty, I'm sad to see him go. People fling shit at the guy, but when it comes down to it, he pushed for original IPs and the EA Partners program. Because of that, we got a ton of GREAT games in this generation.

  • Mirror's Edge
  • Dead Space
  • Mass Effect
  • Dragon Age
  • Shadows of the Damned
  • Brutal Legend
  • Alice: Madness Returns
  • Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
  • Crysis
  • The Secret World
  • Bulletstorm
  • Shank
  • Warp
  • Left 4 Dead, The Orange Box, Portal 2
  • Rock Band

I mean, like it or not, folks - John Riccitiello really did want to show support for games in all genres and help to harvest some really creative properties in his time. He was a risk taker. The Old Republic just happened to be a risk that bit them in the ass. Warhammer Online and its spin-off was the same way. Hell, BattleForge was a cool little game that wouldn't have happened with John being on-board.

Needless to say, whether you love him or hate him, the man helped bring about a library of fantastic games.

Posted by PenguinDust

He's been living on borrowed time since his idea to promote new IPs failed to bring acceptable returns.

Edited by MonkeyKing1969

I'm sure 'Ricky' isn't sad. Electronic Arts will pay Riccitiello two years' salary (about $1.7 million) in severance, plus other benefits. Those other benefit will probably be several times as much as that $1.7 million. He is in his mid-50s so he has about 15 to 20 more years to work, so he could land at a publisher again. But, my guess is he lands in high finance, pharmaceutics, or the food/beverage industry job...better pay less hassles because it is more obscure. He could apply for any but the top twenty Fortune 500, so his job prospects are very good. (He won't end up in the top 20 Fortune 500 because most of those are oil, car, and telecom companies that require, "a certain set of skills," as Liam Neeson would say.)

Posted by iceman228433

So here is what you do if you are EA, you but out Battlefield every year and like Activison put out nothing else but crap and you will make money seems easy to me. The trick is to be like Activsion and not give a crap about good games just make licensed garbage.

Posted by Andorski

Unless EA gets someone with the balls to change their current directive, I doubt a new CEO will fix any of the problems the company is facing. It's not like the lessened focus on single player games and the increased use of DLC/micro-transactions were all part of JR's vision for the company. He actually came in and saw through the end part of EA's push for new original IP's like Mirror's Edge and Dead Space. If anything, the new CEO will just tow the line harder in order to keep their investors happy. It's such a terribly short sighted approach, but even investors see the video games in their current form are at their tail ends.

Edited by bombedyermom

*fart sound*

Posted by JRock3x8

I always thought riccitello looked FIERCELY uncomfortable on stage at E3. Peter Moore by contrast looked like he was born to do it. He's a great spokesman. Not sure if he is CEO material.

Here's my bottom line on this. Under riccotellos reign, EA placed some really huge bets. Mass Effect, Star Wars, Dragon Age - some of those worked. Some did not.unfortunately he missed more than he hit. My chief concern is that the next guy just churns out one EA sports game after another since that seems to be the arena that they dominate in.

Edited by JasonR86

I pray for the person that has to take his place.

Online
Edited by Sweetz

Oh one thing that never seems to be mentioned in an accounting of Riccitiello's time at EA is how much was paid for Bioware and Pandemic.

All said and done, EA paid $860 million to acquire those two companies. That's a huge amount to acquire one small and one medium size developer - and much of it bet on ToR being a success (based on official statements made at the time about wanting to get into the MMORPG space).

Now I am certainly nowhere even close to being qualified to make this judgement, but I'll make it nonetheless - that seems like an excessive amount to me. Especially given a EA's history where they know they only get a few games of value out of a company before all the talent leaves and the name no longer has value. Did they really think things were going to be different with Bioware?

Along with the $200 mil they sunk into developing ToR, grossly overpaying for these two companies would seem to have contributed to their current situation.

Now here's where it gets weird. As others have mentioned, Riccitiello was one of the co-founders of the private equity firm that previously owned much of Bioware and Pandemic. So Riccitiello leaves his private equity company to become CEO of EA, and then proceeds to buy out these two companies from the equity firm he was recently very much a part of, for a huge sum of money - maybe too much. How is it that no one ever bothered to investigate the hell out of this? Because it sure seems shady to me. Hard not to imagine him getting some sort of back room kick backs from his investment partners that made out on that deal.

Edited by Seppli

I think Riccitiello gets a lot of flak he doesn't deserve, at least from us consumers. It was under his stewardship that EA did the whole *All Original IPs* direction, that made me like EA as a company again. Games like Mirror's Edge didn't pay off as much as EA hoped it would, but it's the shareholders who pressured EA's brass to back off that strategy. If they would have stuck with it, and built up studios and personalities rather than franchises, eventually it could have worked out.

Edited by KittyVonDoom

@iceman228433 said:

So here is what you do if you are EA, you but out Battlefield every year and like Activison put out nothing else but crap and you will make money seems easy to me. The trick is to be like Activsion and not give a crap about good games just make licensed garbage.

I'm pretty sure EA invented the annual release and own more licences than Activision. But hey. Activision owns Call of Duty and elitist bandwagon jumping to pretend it's somehow better than the norm is what the Internet does best.

Edited by FierceDeity

@sweetz said:

Oh one thing that never seems to be mentioned in an accounting of Riccitiello's time at EA is how much was paid for Bioware and Pandemic.

All said and done, EA paid $860 million to acquire those two companies. That's a huge amount to acquire one small and one medium size developer - and much of it bet on ToR being a success (based on official statements made at the time about wanting to get into the MMORPG space).

Now I am certainly nowhere even close to being qualified to make this judgement, but I'll make it nonetheless - that seems like an excessive amount to me. Especially given a EA's history where they know they only get a few games of value out of a company before all the talent leaves and the name no longer has value. Did they really think things were going to be different with Bioware?

Along with the $200 mil they sunk into developing ToR, grossly overpaying for these two companies would seem to have contributed to their current situation.

Now here's where it gets weird. As others have mentioned, Riccitiello was one of the co-founders of the private equity firm that previously owned much of Bioware and Pandemic. So Riccitiello leaves his private equity company to become CEO of EA, and then proceeds to buy out these two companies from the equity firm he was recently very much a part of, for a huge sum of money - maybe too much. How is it that no one ever bothered to investigate the hell out of this? Because it sure seems shady to me. Hard not to imagine him getting some sort of back room kick backs from his investment partners that made out on that deal.

How is that "never seems to be mentioned"? It was a BIG DEAL at the time as I recall. People act like that knowledge wasn't well known.

Posted by Doppelgamer

Looking at the picture in the article, I can't help but think that he's about to invoke the dark side of the force and pull an "Egg Shen." (Big Trouble in Little China.)

Edited by WarlordPayne

It's probably going to be all downhill from here. People love to hate on him but Riccitiello seemed to actually understand and care about games, unlike someone like Kotick. EA put out a lot of great games and took a lot of risks while he was in charge, and they're a hell of a lot better than they were before he took over.

They're going to go for someone like Kotick now, who doesn't give a shit about games or the industry, and all of EA's franchises are going to suffer for it.

Edited by GamerGeek360

Am I the only one who thinks is respectable that he admitted that he is 100% accountable? Especially since he probably isn't? As much as people love to bash EA, people should be noting that he's stepping down because he thinks it's his fault for EA's financial problems. Sure, he probably is at least 85% responsible, but he's claiming all of the responsibility. I would love to see a CEO of a big bank do the same thing this man did.

Posted by BD_Mr_Bubbles

Not necessarily a good thing for gamers. Wait and see who replaces him permanently first.

Edited by iragequit

Position Available at EA: CEO

Requirements: Experience playing videogames. Minimum 10.

EDIT: I was gonna say Jeff Green looks like an interesting character. Since seeing his wikipedia page where he is holding a Tim Horton's can of coffee, I MUST say this.

Posted by hanktherapper

I heard on Twitter that Jeff Green is expecting a phone call.

Posted by KlUMZeE

I say good luck to John Riccitiello, the man tried to do some positive things like focusing on new franchises, but unfortunately things just didn't pan out. He definitely made some poor choices and took a lot of blame for things that he probably wasn't directly responsible for, which cast him in a bad light.

Either way, I'd say he was a pretty decent CEO for EA and I just hope they put some one better in his place. Someone else that cares about gamers and creating interesting games and isn't all about the bottom line.

Good luck Johnny Ri!

Posted by SilverTorch1

This is good news but I doubt EA will get any better.

Posted by thenexus

@klumzee: I would say though the underlining approaches to everything, new franchise or old, was just the wrong ones. To much focus was made on the means to maximise profit margins rather then considering the impact on the game or the reactions and uptake.
Star wars was Star wars and they got a big name people love to make it, but the approaches laid down in the build foundations were wrong. Considering Warhammer before it etc no lessons were being learned.

I think that is the big take away, it was not learning from mistakes and driving EA forward out of the negativity that exists towards it.