Video game publishing giant Electronic Arts announced that CEO John Riccitiello has resigned from the company to be effective March 30. Both EA & Mr. Riccitiello have mentioned the company’s poor financial performance as the primary reason for the resignation. One must wonder if there is more to it than that as numerous companies miss their financial goals without their CEO resigning. EA has been in the news negatively as of late due to the SimCity 5 DRM fiasco, requiring players to always be connected to the internet in order to play it as well as legions of customers being unable to access the game they purchased.
There have been numerous server issues following the launch of the game preventing people from signing on the game they have paid for. Shortly after EA came out and said it would be impossible for the game to be played offline and within hours a hacker came out and identified two lines (just two) of code that can be removed that would allow for offline play. Rather than admit that, EA has remained steadfast in their stance that the unpopular DRM causing the problems with the title are necessary. Since the release of the game EA has been mired in bad press and headlines, Amazon has stopped selling the game until the issues have been worked out and Minnesota Vikings punter and avid gamer Chris Kluwe has advised his 100,000+ twitter followers to not purchase the game. EA has gone on to announce they are offering a free game from their library of titles in an effort to smooth things over but the response has been overwhelmingly negative.
While it is a refreshing change of pace to see CEOs being held accountable for poor company performance, you have to wonder if there is more to this story than the canned PR response from both EA and Mr. Riccitiello. Even though EA has a reputation as the evil empire in the videogame world, the company has had a pretty amazing run the last six years under his guidance and it’s tough to imagine him resigning over one bad year.
EA has also announced that John will not serve on the board of directors following his departure and will continue to draw a salary from them for the next 24 months as part of his severance package. I know this is standard procedure when you reach a certain level in your career, but maybe videogame publishers wouldn’t have to resort to implementing draconian control methods of their content if they weren’t paying someone for TWO years after they have left the company. The consumer is bound to be less sympathetic for a company complaining about financial shortcomings when they continue to shell out millions on salaries for individuals no longer in their employment.