Offline: EA CEO John Riccitiello Has Stepped Down

By John Walker on March 18th, 2013 at 8:49 pm.

'Bums.'

Well another person has learned: you don’t mess with Rock, Paper, Shotgun. It seems our coverage of the SimCity… no, not really. The rather more unfortunate reason for EA’s CEO, John Riccitiello’s stepping down is due to the publisher’s struggles to turn a profit, alongside warnings that the next quarter’s targets won’t be met.

Explaining his reasons for leaving in a letter sent to EA employees, Riccitiello explained that,

“My decision 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.”

In saying so, this looks very much like one of those falling-on-a-sword moments, to stave off investor unrest when yet another set of pointy-down graphs are released. Obviously no one person is 100% responsible for a corporations finances, but it always looks good to shareholders if you cut off the drooping heads to allow other… pretty flowers to flourish? That metaphor took an unexpectedly lovely turn.

The temporary head pretty flower is to be Larry Probst (who importantly isn’t Jeff Probst off of Survivor), while they begin what I can only desperately hope will be a TV talent show-style auditioning process for the new chief.

And no, this isn’t a time for gloating after the dreadful mess of SimCity, or ridiculous over-investment in Medal Of Honor, or whatever other ways EA may have annoyed people of late. A lot of great games come from that publisher, and they support a lot of great studios – we do rather want this industry to flourish. Hopefully a new boss can whip everything into shape, ideally in a way that doesn’t involve buying developers then closing them down.

Check out Kotaku’s coverage of this story for a really quite shocking graph of EA’s share prices over the last five years, and the full letter from the former boss to his staff.

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265 Comments »

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  1. uh20 says:

    so, basically we are gutting the studio for everything they do wrong (and that reasonable saying they do commonly do things wrong). and then insist it was only a minor blemish and that they should totally stay in it.
    a lot of this weird message is carried by the generalization that developers and black-suits are in the same boat, we should be more direct on which part of EA needs to die off, right now its most of the business conductors and whoever decided simcity DRM was a perfectly mandatory thing.

    also
    that warframe advertisement looked like it was titled “warface”
    RPS: you thoroughly screwed our ability to read anything starting with war or ending with face

  2. MadTinkerer says:

    Awww.

    Well I wish EA all the best.

    Yes, despite their many, many, MANY mistakes, (some of which were made quite a while before Riccitiello was CEO, and others which he definitely needs to answer for) EA is a company that, overall, has had a generally positive impact on the industry. And there are good people in the company. In fact, I was one of them for a brief time.

    My very first job was Q&A for EA, though it was a very short and easy Work Experience assignment in high school. (For the non-Britsh, Work Experience is when they make you go be an unpaid intern for two weeks in the equivalent of junior year of high school.) There wasn’t much actual testing going on in the office at the time, but I tracked down some bugs in Syndicate and the first PC Space Hulk as well as a racing game whose name I’ve forgotten. The best part was just walking around “behind the scenes” and talking to Actual Professionals and seeing prototypes, works-in-progress, and tech-proofs-of-concept that were never intended to be released.

    So like all big companies there are decent folks there, and I hope the people at the top will pull their heads out of their asses and pay attention to what the consumers actually want so they stay employed. And also Magic Carpet 3, please.

  3. Haplo says:

    And so Riccitello goes- albeit probably with a generous severance package- and then the shareholders will pay ludicrous top dollar to lure in the best CEO who will have them. If he doesn’t turn EA around then the shareholders will just take their money into more profitable enterprises.

    So there’s a pretty good chance- as has happened before- that the new CEO will pretty much just slam monetizing to the hilt and if he can get away with it, slash a bunch of jobs as well.

    • Sparkasaurusmex says:

      I won’t claim to know how this all works, but I believe it is significant that he “stepped down” rather than be terminated or “sacked.” Severance is probably still a part of the deal, but it’s not the same as if he had been fired.

  4. b0rsuk says:

    Yes !!!
    This is the only kind of news from EA I’m happy to hear. In my opinion the situation can improve only for the better.

  5. Muzman says:

    A lot of people are celebrating this. Even though it was probably inevitable, you don’t want to be too happy. This is the point that a company brings in a ‘Get the share price up no matter what’ sonofabitch like Al Dunlap or someone. Kiss goodbye any interesting games at all, not merely less of them.
    If this guy is being punished for Sim City, it won’t be for doing it at all. It’ll just be for doing it wrong. You seriously think every company isn’t going to keep trying to set up online security and matrix-like hooks into every user that drip feeds them money from here on out? It is to laugh.

    • Sparkasaurusmex says:

      Perhaps EA can easily make a shit tonne of profits really fast.
      Do they have things that they could sell at little or no overhead? Things like downloadable games? Perhaps sell these at a huge discount (again, no overhead on the already released games) sell them on Steam and GOG and all that, gut Origin out of the games, and make them all <$10. You can do the same thing on PSN and XBL with older games. Many gamers will purchase a classic if it's price point isn't too high, and again, these games are already made and all EA has to do is make them available at a ridiculous price to sell ridiculous numbers.

      Perhaps it would still just be a drop in the bucket?

  6. StockportJambo says:

    I see a lot of comments here saying things along the lines of they want EA to die, listing all the great companies that they have ruined, etc etc. It’s all well and good.

    But the unmitigated disaster that was Sim City 5 still sold 1.1million copies in its first two weeks.

    I haven’t bought an EA game for five years. I don’t intend to start any time soon. Vote with your wallets. EA don’t care what you write on a message board or forum. If they keep getting sales like that for screwing over the customers, they’ll just keep on doing it. Because they can.

    Support the developers directly – through Kickstarter and other crowd funding sites. Take out the middle man (EA).

    It’s the only way to bring about change.

    • Kadayi says:

      Kickstarter is great for financing small projects, but it’s not going to pay for the development of large scale games that require several million dollars behind them (the pool of kickstarter backers is just not that large). Most AAA titles cost 20 million plus to produce these days (plus marketing/distribution on top) because there are hundreds of people involved in the development, principally at the production end of things.

      The vast bulk of the money that the big publishers generate ends up going straight back into financing future development, because unlike say the oil industry where it’s a closed market, publishers are competing for peoples entertainment money Vs everything else out there. You can generally find the financials for most of the big players out there if you bother to take the time to look.

      What about private finance? Well RTW and 38 Studios have probably put the kibosh on that ever happening again as both demonstrated that just because you know how to make games, doesn’t mean you know how to stay in business.

      • Apocalypse says:

        Star Citizen is crowed founded. And it currently at $8,407,030

        Raised: $8,407,030
        RSI: $6,272,656 Kickstarter: $2,134,374

        Naturally this is not all the money they need, but it is enough money to make investing into the game a good bet for any investors. And it gives the studio enough power to more or less dictate the conditions with their investors.

        And they said Space Sims are a dead genre ;-)

        • Premium User Badge

          xao says:

          So, you’re saying that the single largest example of crowd funding grossed roughly 40% of a AAA budget? I’m not sure that’s a clarion call to do away with publishers.

          • Apocalypse says:

            Naturally this is not all the money they need, but it is enough money to make investing into the game a good bet for any investors. And it gives the studio enough power to more or less dictate the conditions with their investors.

            I could add that as a PC game development cost in general are not as problematic as for console focused games, but you were fair with your estimation of cost already.
            As well the marketing seems rather safe with 150.000 people already talking and hyping the game already. Sounds like a very solid deal. Want to invest a few millions? Contact them at http://www.robertsspaceindustries.com ;-)

  7. Random Gorilla says:

    I liked Fark.com’s headline:

    EA CEO steps down, will drive home to the first available unoccupied house

    • captain nemo says:

      It took him ages to get home, although there was a jam-free adjacent free-way which was ignored

  8. Sentient says:

    I used to buy games on impulse but that has changed.a lot these days thanks too.
    * Dragon Age 2 being pants
    * ME3 being pants
    * Origin being pants
    * SimCity always online (DRM and small map sizes)

    Net effect for EA is that I give them less money and I guess I am not the only one.

    (Ooh and I don’t pirate games)

  9. Premium User Badge

    c-Row says:

    Well, sounds like Riccitiello isn’t… always-on!

  10. rustybroomhandle says:

    What’s next for Riccitielo? Perhaps he will merge with another CEO to become as one.

    And so shall begin the ballad of John Ricci-Bobby Kotick.

  11. Arithon says:

    “So what was your policy on customer service?”
    “We shat on them.”
    “Did that turn a profit?”
    “No.”
    “You’re fired!”

    And in other news…

  12. analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

    I finished Metro 2033 (again) yesterday and sat and watched the Credits, it was to say the least a bit of an eye opener. There was more THQ corporate staff listed than actual developers of the game, by quite a large margin.

    I think bloated corporate structures where dumbed down games are designed by committee will be the death knell for more than EA. The hunt for prettiness in computer games at the expense of game play, depth and innovation is one of the main causes of spiralling games development costs.

  13. Oryon says:

    Good riddance to bad rubbishiello.

  14. Kefren says:

    “who importantly isn’t Jeff Probst off of Survivor”

    ‘Off of’?

    Are you American now, John?

    • Premium User Badge

      Malibu Stacey says:

      Yeah no one in the UK ever says “off of”. I mean it’s not like it’s regular day time Radio 1 DJ’s catchphrase or anything.

    • Premium User Badge

      Durkonkell says:

      Usage of ‘off’ in that way is extremely common in Britain, at least around where I live. In addition to ‘off of’, one might hear “off the telly” or perhaps “you can get that off Amazon” with the ‘of’ removed entirely. My personal favourite is some kind of hideous amalgamation of ‘online’ and ‘off the Internet': “You can pick that up offline”. Yes, people do say that, and yes I have threatened to visit physical violence upon them for it in the past.

  15. Sparkasaurusmex says:

    Can we kickstart a 51% share in EA?

    • Premium User Badge

      Malibu Stacey says:

      Sure, should only take about USD 2.8 billion or so. Lets call it a round USD 3 billion just to make sure.

      Any ideas what the stretch goals might be?

      • Sparkasaurusmex says:

        Easy first stretch goal can be Simcity Offline. Then additional goals can each be a developer released from shackles.

      • Apocalypse says:

        Sounds like a plan. If the estimation of 2.8 billion is correct is sounds rather cheap. We just need 28 000 000 people pledging on average 100$.

        And we can promise that we will hand out Wing Commander and Strike Commander back into the hands of Chris Roberts. Actually, we just can give out any origin systems IP back to the original lead developer. System shock gets back to Warren Spector, and Ultima is back to Lord British.

        American McGee gets his Alice licence he wanted anyway to buy.
        We can promise that we give Molyneux Dungeon Keeper if he makes for everyone involved in this kick starter a new one.
        We can add a 200$ Dollar tier that will include system shock 3, syndicate and mirrors edge 2.

        It should be a piece of cake to get the important stuff out of EA and sell afterwards 51% of EA again to actually found all those games without poising those games with the EA brand which is toxic in many consumer eyes.

        And yes I am joking, at least half, because I am actually not sure if there are not really enough people out there that hate EA enough to pay a few hundred dollar to watch EA burn and get the IP of cool game universes back into the “right hands”.

        • Cockles says:

          Your jokes are not funny, they are my secret desires and wildest gaming-related dreams

  16. Megakoresh says:

    Good riddance to that f-head.
    Did you notice that after he stepped down basically the next day EA has done a consumer-friendly thing for the first time in like… 5 years or so? I am talking about the apology program from SimCity launch.

  17. Apocalypse says:

    John Riccitiello is the best EA release of the year.

  18. aircool says:

    Obviously he wasn’t making enough family friends and going to work in a negative mood after pissing on the floor whilst making breakfast and completely forgetting to shower. Maybe if we’d bought him a guitar to cheer him up and help him relax, or a minibar so he could throw a party and find love, he might have stayed in his job…

  19. JarinArenos says:

    Well cut me in half and call me a munchkin, ’cause Ding Dong, the witch is dead!

  20. wuwul says:

    AND… he’s GOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGONNNNEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!