The news we all saw coming…
John Riccitiello has resigned as EA’s CEO, or rather the resignation will be effective as of 30th March 2013.
Not that such news is surprising. Most of us had been expecting this – as ardent fans of gaming, as staunch critics of EA’s business strategies in the last few years and even those who move in financial/stocks circles, the writing had seemingly been on the wall. Since John Riccitiello had taken over, he had presided over one of the worst arcs in the companies history, overseeing a profitability decline and a sharp downturn in the stock market, as well as a marked decline in the quality of its output. After a tumultuous few years for EA – from its issues with BioWare to its recent failings with SimCity and its push to monetise its titles, from the misguided Warfighter to the troubled Origin service, the buck has finally stopped where it should have. As I said previously;
“So why is EA in such a position? Well, earlier this year, investment blog 24/7 Wall Street named the ten CEO’s it thought would – or should – be fired this year. And what do you know? John Riccitiello came in at number five! Hooray! When investment pundits and experts start thinking you’re the weight around a companies neck, then you’ve got a real problem. Not to mention that John Riccitiello has become something of a poster child for the worst excesses of the video game industry. Indeed, most of EA’s woes have happened under his watch, so the buck does invariably stop with him. But EA was doing stupid things before him and will do stupid things long after he is gone unless it takes decisive action to change its image.”
And therein is a note of caution; John Riccitiello may have been the poster-child for all of EA’s ills, but ultimately it will take more than a new face to really clean it up as a company. However, there is probably some truth that Mr. Riccitiello was responsible for more than his fair share of bad decisions and choices, which have seen EA not only see sales dwindle but also seen it voted as one of the worst companies in America. There is definitely method in the madness of changing the guard and getting a new face on those creaking bones. Whilst it’s visually appealing, let us not forget that it needs more radical reform and change before it can truly say it has shed its past.
John Riccitiello once seemed a humble man; but his colours shone through later with disingenuous comments about how games should be monetised. He once talked about studios controlling their own destiny; something which we’ve rarely seen happen. When he came to the job, EA were pushing new IP such as Mirror’s Edge and Dead Space. We haven’t seen a jot of that spark since. They say absolute power corrupts absolutely; John Riccitiello is perhaps one of the best current examples of this. For all the warmth he brought, it seemed to have been sucked out of him as time went on; he became a parody of himself, his speeches and anecdotes became strange and warped and his one-liners about the state of the industry have gone down much like quips from George W. Bush, as prime examples of an individual who should have run his talks by the PR department first.
On the flipside, I will miss Jim Sterling’s usual image of John Riccitiello. Which was always highly amusing. But no doubt we’ll see more of John Riccitiello in the future – faces like his don’t disappear, they return somewhere else. Like a particularly nasty villain, they never truly die. They just find something new to corrupt.
Farewell John Riccitiello. And bye bye!
I’d say you’ll be missed, but we both know I’d be lying.
Update; EA’s share price rose just shy of 3% on this news, which means that even investors agreed that this is probably a good idea.