updated 06:31 pm EDT, Mon March 18, 2013
CEO under fire from gamers, investors since 2008
Citing "accountability for the shortcomings in our financial results this year," game publisher Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello is stepping down. Former CEO and current chairman of the board, Larry Probst, is taking over the position while the board searches for a candidate.
Riccitiello said in a letter to the company that EA will likely come in at the low end or slightly below the financial estimates it provided to Wall Street last quarter, and has "fallen short of the internal operating plan we set one year ago." He calls himself "100 percent accountable" for the failures to meet financial goals.
While Riccitiello changed a prior practice of absorbing smaller developers for intellectual property and then dramatically changing the games, he took heat for shutting down studios after they released games that didn't immediately see critical or financial success. During his tenure, the company came under legal assault for breaking US antitrust laws by signing exclusive contracts with the NFL, NCAA, and the Arena Football League to use players' names and likenesses, preventing other companies from using the content.
The company has also been burdened by allegations of draconian digital rights management, beginning with Spore. The implementation of "online passes" intended to curtail used console game purchases, as well as the current debacle with Sim City -- even after saying that the company had learned from prior mistakes -- has not gone over well with players. In April of 2012, the Consumerist awarded EA the title of "Worst Company in America" following a poll of its users, citing a litany of consumer complaints.
Probst was the company CEO from 1991 to 1997, and has served as the chairman of the board since 1994. During a time of rapid gaming expansion, Probst grew EA's revenues from $175 million to $3 billion. The company had announced it was expecting revenue between $1.03 and $1.13 billion on this quarter. EA stock has climbed over three percent in after-hours trading on the news of Riccitiello's resignation.