As the CEO of Electronic Arts since 2007, John Riccitiello oversaw one of the most powerful, prodigious and influential companies in interactive entertainment — making him a man of similar attributes.
Today Riccitiello submitted his resignation to EA’s Board of Directors, with plans to step down from his role at the end of March after 12 years of employment dating back to 1997.
The news arrived in an official statement on EA’s blog written by Executive Chairman Larry Probst, who praised Riccitiello as a “great leader” and “bold decision maker” with “a big vision for online games, a passion for product quality and an enduring respect for the people who work here.”
“Looking ahead, EA’s strategy and future are rock solid. Our business is built on more than a dozen powerful, globally recognized brands. We are clear leaders in the fastest growing category in games — mobile — and we are positioned to lead on the next generation of consoles.”
Although financially, Electronics Arts’ profit margins have delivered a Fight Night-esque mixture of highs and lows during Riccitiello’s tenure, his reign at EA did indeed see the company place an emphasis on increasing product quality, as well re-engineering its development capabilities around mobile and social gaming and online connectivity. Constant corporate takeovers and extravagant use of paid DLC and microtransactions, however, have lead to incessant attacks against the company’s public image, and Riccitiello’s resignation arrives during what has arguably evolved into the largest — at the very least, it’s the loudest — public relations nightmare of its 31-year history: SimCity’s online meltdown.
Essentially a reboot of the legendary urban creation/metropolitan management simulator, 2013’s SimCity is the first iteration in the Maxis-developed series to mandate an Internet connection. Needless to say, we’ve seen the results: the server outages, the hacks and bugs, the impediments to saving games. The Failure to Launch. Whether or not always-on Internet came at EA’s behest is still nebulous — Maxis VP Lucy Bradshaw maintained recently that it was the developer’s decision — but it’s also become moot. Responsibility and liability has been buried under a sprawl of negative press and consumer backlash, compelling EA to offer SimCity players one of its marquee games — Mass Effect 3, Battlefield 3 and Dead Space 3, to name a few choices — for free.
That Riccitiello’s departure coincides with the SimCity debacle might illustrate consequence; it might illustrate coincidence. What it will be unquestionably is an enduring mark on the CEO’s legacy; an unresolved crisis left at the feet of the next to fill his shoes.
What do you think led to John Riccitiello’s resignation from EA? Is it time for fresh blood to steer the company in the new direction, or veteran leadership to stay the course?
Follow Brian on Twitter @Brian_Sipple.