John Riccitiello (Credit: Getty Images)All is not well at Electronic Arts.
John Riccitiello has resigned his position as chief executive officer, the massive game publisher announced Monday. Ricitiello will formally step down on March 30, ending a six-year run. He’ll also leave the company’s board of directors.
Former EA CEO Larry Probst, who held the position from 1991 to 2007, will act as a temporary CEO while the company searches for a replacement.
Riccitiello’s reign was a shaky one. He took over only a year before the 2008 recession arrived, which knocked EA’s stock to a quarter of its high in 2005. Despite the success of franchises like FIFA, Madden, Battlefield, and Mass Effect, Riccitiello was unable to turn the ship around.
"My decision to leave EA is really all about my accountability for the shortcomings in our financial results this year," he wrote in a note to EA staffers. "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.”
EA’s troubles didn’t just start in 2013. A number of big name titles, including The Beatles: Rock Band and Star Wars: The Old Republic, failed to live up to sales expectations. The company’s attempt to reboot the long-running shooter franchise Medal of Honor faced pushback from both critics and consumers, while its high-profile role-playing game Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, created by former Red Sox ace Curt Schilling, sank developer 38 Studios. More recently, EA fumbled the launch of SimCity, widely expected to be one of the year’s biggest PC games.
Other missteps have been more subtle. The company has had difficulty adjusting to a gaming world dominated by downloadable and free-to-play games instead of the traditional $60 big-budget retail release, still considered EA’s bread and butter.
Despite Riccitiello’s departure and the uphill battle ahead, new CEO Probst seems optimistic.
“Looking ahead, EA’s strategy and future are rock solid,” he wrote on the company’s blog. 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. Most importantly we have deep reserves of talent – new faces and industry veterans who form the core of EA’s leadership. We have an important year ahead of us and I look forward to working with all of you as we navigate the path to future success!”