Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello plans to step down on March 30 after the company issued a forecast warning and released the latest installment in its SimCity franchise earlier this month.
Riccitiello said in a statement posted on EA’s website that he takes responsibility for the company’s recent financial struggles.
“My decision to leave EA is really all about my accountability for the shortcomings in our financial results this year. It currently looks like we will come in at the low end of, or slightly below, the financial guidance we issued to the Street, and we have fallen short of the internal operating plan we set one year ago. And for that, I am 100 percent accountable.”
Forbes said overwhelming criticism about the city-building game SimCity may have been the catalyst for Riccitiello to leave after six years at the helm. Larry Probst, the company's CEO from 1991 to 2007, when Riccitiello took over, will serve as executive chairman until a successor is found.
EA designed SimCity as always-online, digital rights management capable; however, players found numerous issues with its structure from the very beginning. Among the issues: having to log into servers before beginning gameplay, having to wait in long queues to play the game, which allows users to build a town in an urban landscape -- and often having servers disconnect and lose a player’s progress.
Executives at the Redwood City, Calif., company responded that SimCity couldn't be played offline without “a significant amount of engineering work.” Some gamers apparently took this to effectively mean the company didn't want to put in the work required to make the game playable offline.
In addition, some fans took issue with the ending of the role-playing game "Mass Effect 3", organizing online protests and letter writing campaigns to demand an extended cut for the game, which was deemed incomplete, full of plot holes and lacking a final boss, among other complaints.
TechCrunch said Riccitiello’s resignation wasn't tied to the failure of any single product, but rather a culmination of disappointing sales over the course of five years. The company provided a forecast for the current quarter in January. EA will announce financial results on May 7. Shares (Nasdaq:EA) were down $1.62, or 8.6 percent, to $17.09 in midday trading on Tuesday.
EA said SimCity has sold 1.1 million units in its first two weeks of availability, making this the best-selling version yet.
A source close to Riccitiello told TechCrunch “no one was dying internally about” the initial backlash the game received.
Another source said Riccitiello was simply unable to keep up with the ever-evolving world of gaming, where expensive consoles once dominated. Now, mobile phones and tablets are taking over as the platform of choice for many developers.
“The truth is that the game industry continues to pivot very rapidly. EA is in a good place but it requires a lot of energy and laser focus ... He’s been pivoting the company hard for many years, but the industry keeps pivoting faster,” the source said.