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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

Alex Navarro on Google+
270 Comments
Posted by Verdy

Goodbye John Risotto~

Posted by Sweetz

@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.

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.

I know there was plenty of coverage of the deal, what I mean is that I haven't seen it mentioned in write-ups like the one in Forbes that have brief accounts of his mistakes. They all talk about the investment in ToR, the getting voted worst company thing, some mention buying PopCap and Playfish - but I haven't seen anything indicating that EA overpaid for Bioware and Pandemic.

I mean maybe they didn't overpay, what do I know, but I'd they'd have to ship a heck of a lot of games at a substantial profit over their normal development cost to recoup $800 million and they already dissolved one of the studios...

Posted by Quantical

"The Simpsons: Tapped Out" lol

Posted by YOUNGLINK

Well I certainly am going to miss kicking him around. Oh and new IP'S. I would say if Peter Moore wants to do it LET HIM!

Edited by TangoUp

@legion_ said:

Say what you will about John Riccitello, but he led the strongest push in new IP's this whole generation. He tried putting out new IP's that weren't just first person shooters, and gamers thanked him by not buying those games (Mirror's Edge and Dead Space spesifically).

Can't blame the man for pushing sequels when people obviously don't want original IP's.

@dr_mantas said:
@jackel2072 said:

this is not much of a shock, but i salute the man for trying! Dead Space, Mass Effect, Mirrors Edge. He did go out and get some great talent to work for EA back in the day. and even though EA is slowly falling back into its old ways (you think EA is bad now? piff go look at them back during the PS2 era) i dont blame Riccitello for all of EA's faults. The company really fucking tried to be a game company for the enthusiast crowd... and it didnt work. EA has the curse of being the company that was formally number 1 in the video games industry and it's share holders have been trying to reclaim that position for a while now and alienating its consumers in the process.

I was going to write the same thing, but thanks for writing it for me!

When EA was making interesting new games for hardcore gamers, no one bought them. Even the huge return to form for PC RPGs that Dragon Age was sold better on the Xbox 360. Seriously!

I can't really blame EA and Riccitello for trying to make money any which way.

OK, seriously, a game company is not entitled to sell tens of millions of copies of new IPs.

Assassin's Creed was a successful new IP this gen. Lots and lots of people liked it.

Uncharted was a successful new IP this gen. Lots and lots of people liked it.

Gears of War was a successful new IP this gen. Lots and lots of people liked it.

Borderlands ...

Demon Souls ...

Mass Effect ...

etc. etc. etc.

Just because a new IP has been released doesn't mean it automatically has to sell well. Just take the example of Assassin's Creed. The first game was met with a lot of criticism and even scored well below AAA game average on review sites but Ubisoft persevered and two years later tried to address many of the issues surrounding it by releasing AC2. Even though it has become an annualized franchise, think of where Ubisoft might have been this gen had it given up on AC after the first game?

Skate, Mirror's Edge and Dead Space were released right around the time EA was getting a lot of flak for its business practices. Now I loved Skate but the sequels weren't much of an improvement, I hate survival horror and Mirror's Edge could have well become the AC killer if EA just had the courage to actually put time into developing it.

EDIT: And Mass Effect doesn't count. The first game was already out when EA bought Bioware, correct? But good on them from bringing ME1 to the PS3 though.

Posted by Jimbo

@tpoppapuff said:

@jimbo: ME3's ending was bad. The rest of that game was better than pretty much better than everything else out last year with a small handful of exceptions, none of which were in the shooter or rpg genre. I mean The Walking Dead was barely a game (but an absolute must play) and X-Com which honestly benefitted from the entire genre going on hiatus for about a good decade plus (or at least felt like it). After that, what? You can make arguments for Far Cry 3 and Journey but I wouldn't say they are necessarily better, maybe just as good.

I agree, it was a very disappointing year for games. That was your point, right?

@legion_ said:

@jimbo said:

@gasparnolasco said:

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.

The two Medal of Honor games were also below expectations. Honestly, EA owes FIFA and the NFL its very existence, because they have nothing else to offer anymore.

Weird, because here I was thinking that they have one of the biggest shooter franchises in the world. Oh, and I guess all that Sims money doesn't count either.

Riccitello has a unfair reputation. Under his leadership, we saw tons of new IP released. Mirror's Edge, Dead Space, Dante's Inferno, Army of Two, Boom Blox, Brütal Legend, Bulletstorm, Create, Crysis, Dragon Age, FaceBreaker, Kingdoms of Amalur, The Saboteur, Shank, Skate and Spore, and that's just naming the biggest.

On top of that, he greenlit tons of weird sequels, like Alice: Madness Returns. And he of course was a driving force behind some of the best sequels in older franchises, like Need for Speed.

It's easy to make someone out to be a villain when you don't know anything about the man or his work. It's a shame his legacy will be ruined by guys like you.

I'll give them credit for trying new IP, but how many of those you listed were actually successful at all? Not many, which is why they promptly gave up on that strategy and went back to running proven franchises into the ground.

I think he actually did a decent job of turning the EA supertanker around if you look at how they were hemorrhaging money a few years ago, but at the same time they have managed to fuck up games which should have been almost impossible to fuck up. Mass Effect and Dragon Age franchises in particular should have been twice as successful as they were, imo. They also decided to go aggressively against Activision on Acti's turf (MMO, FPS) and bounced right off every time they tried.

Posted by peritus

"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"

Yeah, just slightly.

Edited by dr_mantas

@tangoup: You do realize that these companies have to make money, right?

And Assassin's Creed the first actually sold pretty well, and UBI still did some very nasty anti-consumer things with the sequels (the DRM).

Bottom of it all, yes, they could persevere and make sequels - what if those don't sell? That's the problem with shareholders and open stock companies.

Posted by MonkeyKing1969

@seppli said:

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.

That true, he gets flack for doing his job the way he is supposed to do it. It was his job to get maximum benefit/return for investors in a way that is aligned with how the board of directors views how that should be done. If EA has a Google like policy of "don't be evil" he might have had latitude, but that not how investor in EA saw it.

There is more and more talk about how investors should not be able to shape for corporation comply with laws - environmental, regulatory, etc. And, that the 'expectation of return on investment' cannot outweigh fair and honest business practices or the corporation's employees goals to be more fair, affordable, green or whatever...if they choose to be that way. It may seem dangerous in investors minds, to lose some control, but we have seen too much corporate greed caused by the only overriding goal to be maximum return quickly instead of sustainable return over the long term.

Edited by BawlZINmotion

@jimbo said:

@tpoppapuff said:

@jimbo: ME3's ending was bad. The rest of that game was better than pretty much better than everything else out last year with a small handful of exceptions, none of which were in the shooter or rpg genre. I mean The Walking Dead was barely a game (but an absolute must play) and X-Com which honestly benefitted from the entire genre going on hiatus for about a good decade plus (or at least felt like it). After that, what? You can make arguments for Far Cry 3 and Journey but I wouldn't say they are necessarily better, maybe just as good.

I agree, it was a very disappointing year for games. That was your point, right?

@legion_ said:

@jimbo said:

@gasparnolasco said:

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.

The two Medal of Honor games were also below expectations. Honestly, EA owes FIFA and the NFL its very existence, because they have nothing else to offer anymore.

Weird, because here I was thinking that they have one of the biggest shooter franchises in the world. Oh, and I guess all that Sims money doesn't count either.

Riccitello has a unfair reputation. Under his leadership, we saw tons of new IP released. Mirror's Edge, Dead Space, Dante's Inferno, Army of Two, Boom Blox, Brütal Legend, Bulletstorm, Create, Crysis, Dragon Age, FaceBreaker, Kingdoms of Amalur, The Saboteur, Shank, Skate and Spore, and that's just naming the biggest.

On top of that, he greenlit tons of weird sequels, like Alice: Madness Returns. And he of course was a driving force behind some of the best sequels in older franchises, like Need for Speed.

It's easy to make someone out to be a villain when you don't know anything about the man or his work. It's a shame his legacy will be ruined by guys like you.

I'll give them credit for trying new IP, but how many of those you listed were actually successful at all? Not many, which is why they promptly gave up on that strategy and went back to running proven franchises into the ground.

I think he actually did a decent job of turning the EA supertanker around if you look at how they were hemorrhaging money a few years ago, but at the same time they have managed to fuck up games which should have been almost impossible to fuck up. Mass Effect and Dragon Age franchises in particular should have been twice as successful as they were, imo. They also decided to go aggressively against Activision on Acti's turf (MMO, FPS) and bounced right off every time they tried.

I think people need to remember that many CEO's are directed to operate in certain ways, or must please those they answer to by performing in a favorable manner. When Riccitiello was hired by Electronic Arts in 2007, EA bought both Bioware and Pandemic Studios from Elevation Partners, a company Riccitiello co-founded after leaving EA the first time. As CEO of EA he presided over games like Mass Effect 2, Dragon Age: Origins, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Mirrors' Edge and Dead Space. Granted games like DA:O had long been in development, but 3 years of development fell under his watch at EA.

So why did everything go so sour with Dragon Age II, Mass Effect 3 and Battlefield 3? Who was really pushing for Star Wars: The Old Republic? The way games and customers were treated was actually improving and then it fell through the floor again. This incredible need to control and micro transaction the hell out of products. Releasing games unfinished, or cutting development time down to get a quick turnaround. This all looks like a big u-turn from what people were coming to expect from this "new" Electronic Arts.

And now Riccitiello resigns? Following resignations by Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk? That's just weird.

Edited by AV_Gamer

I'm not surprised. At the end of the day, it's about money. And this guy's mistakes over the years were starting to ruin the reputation of EA to the point where they might start losing money. So they had to take action to make it seem like they're addressing the problems that now has many people in the gaming industry looking at EA as an evil game developer. Will this change eliminate the problems with the developer? Probably not, but it's about saving face by looking as if action has been taken.

Edited by squidraid

Did anyone else enjoy the irony of Origin putting damn near EA's entire library on a huge sale coinciding with this announcement? Can't imagine that's an accident, no matter how much EA wants to insist this departure isn't at least partly a PR move.

Posted by Sanity

Yea, this has been a long time coming and im surprised it took this long. Still, i'll be amazed if whoever gets his job makes any noticeable difference in the reputation and overall quality of things at EA.

Posted by Mezmero

Leonardo leads Riccitiello does machines.

Edited by thatdudeguy

@blackout62: Sorry to be that guy, but cardinals conclave not enclave. That is all.

Edited by Tebbit

@mezmero said:

Leonardo leads Riccitiello does machines.

Quoted for Teenage Mutant Ninja-tellos.

Posted by Snakepond

EA has made some stupid mistakes, but a world without EA Games is not a world I want to live in. EA has some great titles and releases more games then any other publishers out there. Just in 2012 they gave us SSX, Syndicate, Kingdoms of Amalur, NFS MW, BF3 expansions, NHL13, etc...

Posted by imbarkus

Wow a Nixon quote as the article headline. Harsh.

Edited by Alekss

But, but, I like kicking John Riccitiello. Especially in the nuts.

Edited by Snakepond

<p>Even though he's a millionaire I truly feel bad for Mr. Riccitiello. He tried with the EA partners thing and gave us some great games like Mirrors Edge, Dead Space Series and Saboteur. Unfortunately, they did not do well and he tried to copy the Activision / Blizzard model and that failed miserably.</p>