EA CEO John Riccitiello Sets SimCity Ablaze, Walks Away as it Burns

john_riccitiello

Kotaku:

John Riccitiello, CEO of game publisher Electronic Arts, is stepping down from his position. [...] EA’s financials took a dive during the recession in 2008 and have not come close to recovering since. The past six months have been particularly rocky for the publisher behind games like Battlefield and Madden.

If you’re looking for some harder numbers, take a stroll on over to this Fortune article, then give yourself a moment to digest how hard they actually are. A 25% drop in video game paraphernalia sales within the span of a year? Declining profits for the fifteenth straight month in a row? Financial success is fleeting and unstable in this medium, a lesson EA has been subjected to repeatedly since 2008.

Gamers are a population with a sophisticated understanding of the Internet and a compulsion to pick apart attempts to appease them; the fanbase, thus, is simultaneously difficult to please and extremely vocal about their dissatisfaction. Any venue can become a platform for airing out grievances. EA bore the brunt of this after ascending to fiscal supremacy in 2007, cultivating a reputation as a soulless giant bleeding dry whatever developers they could get their hands on. Efforts to further commodify gaming (the increasing prevalence of microtransactions) or compete with popular innovations like Steam (the development of the widely criticized Origin) furthered their unpopular reputation among disappointed consumers. The very public struggles of The Old Republic and SimCity are among EA’s most recent debacles, the latter of which seems to have incited Riccitiello’s resignation.

As Kotaku indicates, EA brought some intriguing (if not always successful) IPs to the forefront under Riccitiello’s watch, but this is a climate of AAA 200+ million dollar blockbusters and mounting distrust of Big Gaming. The likes of Mirror’s Edge and Brutal Legend simply aren’t enough to balance out a company’s release-day debacles and DRM politics. Is this the beginning of a new era in content-provider accountability, or simply another portent of a quickly monetized medium devouring itself?

Drew Byrd-Smith - drewbyrd.blogspot.com

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