Electronic Arts’ CEO John Riccitiello will be leaving the game publishing giant on March 30, according to a company-issued statement. His predecessor, Larry Probst, has been installed as Executive Chairman to “to ensure a smooth transition and to lead EA’s executive team while the Board conducts a search for a permanent CEO.” EA’s statement also said that “(t)he Board will consider internal and external candidates with the assistance of a leading executive search firm.”
Riccitiello’s departure coincides with a particularly rough time for EA. As most people already know, the company has absorbed multiple major PR hits within the last few weeks. The SimCity launch fiasco angered many gamers; perhaps worse, it only served to reinforce the notion that Electronic Arts deserves its reputation as “the worst company in America“.
It’s hard to not think of Riccitiello’s impending departure as some kind of reaction to the SimCity launch. EA is keen to show that it is doing all it can to somehow stem the tide of bad press and consumer annoyance. Just days after the game launched amidst howls of dissatisfaction and unhappiness from people who bought the game, the company announced a raft of improvements to its servers to alleviate the problems. And soon after that, EA also announced that it was giving away a free game download from its own Origin distribution service to all those who bought the game at launch. Included in the list of free game downloads are (choice of one):
There is a caveat to the free game download, however: EA says that it’s “VALID FOR NEW PURCHASES OF SIMCITY (“PRODUCT”) THAT ARE REGISTERED TO YOUR ORIGIN ACCOUNT BY MARCH 25, 2013 AT 11:59PM PDT.”
As neat a coincidence as the timing of Riccitiello’s departure from Electronic Arts is, it’s more likely than not that it has more to do with longer-term factors at play than only SimCity. The company’s own statement says “EA expects that its revenues and earnings per share for the current quarter will be at the low end of, or slightly below previously issued guidance provided in its press release dated January 30, 2013.” Translation: EA lost money in the current financial quarter. In fact, this is just a continuation of a lengthy trend for the company.
It’s not all bad for Riccitiello, though. Polygon.com reported, “As part of Riccitiello’s separation agreement, he’ll receive 24 months of salary continuation and continued vesting of unvested stock options until Nov. 30, 2013, with those options exercisable until Feb. 28, 2014.” Not too shabby at all.