Video game giant Electronic Arts has announced that CEO John Riccitiello is to resign from the company. In a letter to chairman of the board Larry Probst, Riccitiello conceded that forthcoming quarterly results are likely to fall short of expectations and that he is, "100 percent accountable".
The industry veteran will step down on 30 March with Probst appointed as executive chairman until a permanent replacement is found.
After taking over as CEO in February 2007, Riccitiello has overseen a turbulent period in the history of EA. Stock value plunged amid the global financial meltdown of 2008, and has never recovered to the 2005 peak when shares were worth $70 each. Like most publishers in this sector EA has suffered due to a decline in retail software sales but has fought to improve its digital business, investing in social gaming companies such as Playfish and Popcap and extending its reach into Facebook and smartphone titles.
"The progress EA has made on transitioning to digital games and services is something I'm extremely proud of," wrote Riccitiello in his resignation letter. "However, it currently looks like we will come in at the low end of, or slightly below, the financial guidance we issued in January, and we have fallen short of the internal operating plan we set one year ago. EA's shareholders and employees expect better and I am accountable for the miss."
In a statement issued today, Probst praised Riccitiello, but accepted the resignation: "We thank John for his contributions to EA since he was appointed CEO in 2007, especially the passion, dedication, and energy he brought to the company every single day. John has worked hard to lead the company through challenging transitions in our industry, and was instrumental in driving our very significant growth in digital revenues. We appreciate John's leadership and the many important strategic initiatives he has driven for the company. We have mutually agreed that this is the right time for a leadership transition."
Electronic Arts remains one of the major video game publishers, with titles like Battlefield, Fifa and Need For Speed, producing profitable annual iterations. However, the company has seen a series of public relations hiccups over the last year, many over charges for downloadable content on titles such as Mass Effect 3, as well as problems with its Origin game download service. Most recently, the release of the latest SimCity simulation has been marred by server failures and the instigation of an "always online" system which ensures purchasers cannot play the game if they don't have a web connection.
Industry pundits are already touting current EA COO Peter Moore as a possible candidate for the vacant job. The Liverpool-born exec has been at EA since 2007 having served eventful stints at Microsoft and Sega.
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