Electronic Arts’ inability to recover its pre-2008 market crash value seems to have finally taken its toll. According to a new rumor, John Riccitiello will be stepping down as CEO of the Madden NFL publisher. Peter Moore, current COO of EA, is said to be taking over.
Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter told an audience at the Develop Conference on Tuesday, “[Riccitiello is] worried about being fired and worried why his stock has hit such a low point.” While Pachter said he was kidding, an anonymous source told Game Front on Wednesday that Riccitiello will in fact be removed from his position after the company’s second quarter earnings call on Jul. 30.
When John Riccitiello took over as CEO of Electronic Arts in 2007, his vision for the company was very different from when he served as the publisher’s president and COO in at the turn of the century. In the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, Riccitiello helped make EA the biggest video game publisher in the world by pumping out product. It was quantity over quality. When he returned though, he spearheaded a movement to make EA synonymous with original IP, the burgeoning mobile game business, and excellent annual sports games rather than perennial cash-ins. The company pursued those goals in earnest, funding expensive new titles like Dead Space and Mirror’s Edge, transforming the FIFA franchise into the industry leader for soccer games, and acquiring key developers like BioWare and PopCap.
Laudable as the plan was, it hasn’t worked out for the company. Its attempts to establish new AAA console IP have resulted in more flops like Dante’s Inferno than hits and many of its biggest investments with games like The Beatles: Rock Band never met with financial expectations. Even as its digital revenues grow thanks to its prominence in the mobile and social game markets, that revenue hasn’t grown to replace money lost on development of huge games like Star Wars: The Old Republic. Even with annual net revenue up 15 percent year-on-year to $4.1 billion in fiscal 2012, net income plummeted 263 percent to just $76 million. EA stock is down nearly 44 percent since the beginning of the year and it’s down 81 percent from when Riccitiello took over.
His would be successor Peter Moore already has a vision for EA’s future in place. Cross-platform play is how EA will become the earning machine it used to be according to Moore. Good for EA’s shareholders, but for players already tired of purchasing games like Mass Effect 3 in piecemeal DLC packs, the future is grim.