Game giant Electronic Arts abruptly announced today that its chief executive, John Riccitiello, is leaving on March 30.
The Redwood City, Calif.-based company underperformed recently but remains a dominant force in the industry and a key partner to Microsoft, Nintendo of America and other game companies in the Seattle area and around the world.
EA also has a major presence in the Vancouver, B.C., area and owns one of Seattle’s premier game studios, PopCap Games, which it acquired in 2011 for $650 million in cash and payouts worth up to $1.3 billion.
Riccitiello took the blame for EA’s poor performance, making him the highest profile victim so far of the traditional video game industry’s slump, which has been exacerbated by the shift to online games and cheap apps and the lull ahead of new console launches.
From Riccitiello’s farewell letter, posted on EA’s blog:
“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.”
Chairman Larry Probst will lead the company until a replacement is found.
I wonder if EA’s next chief executive will be Peter Moore (left), a former Microsoft vice president who joined EA in 2007 as president of its sports group and rose to become its chief operating officer.
Riccitiello worked for big consumer brands such as Sara Lee and Wilson Sporting Goods before joining EA in 1997. He took a break from te company to help start investment company Elevation Partners – which was co-founded by rock star turned philanthropist Bono – then came back to run EA in 2007.
Wall Street cheered the move, boosting EA stock about 3 percent to $19.25 in after-hours trading, after Riccitiello’s resignation was announced.
Maybe that’s Riccitiello bailing out in this screenshot from EA’s upcoming “Battlefield 3: End Game.”