The recent less-than-smooth release of SimCity did little to bolster the image of Electronic Arts, the publishers of the city-building game. The ramifications may have been farther-reaching than just bad PR. It may have been the instigator for today’s news: John Riccitiello, the CEO of EA, has stepped down today.
Riccitiello has claimed that he’s leaving because of poor earnings:
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.
However, it’s hard not to draw conclusions that his leaving is related to SimCity’s always-online DRM, which has lit up the Internet with fan ire. As we know, the reboot of the popular simulation game required players to log into servers before swearing in as mayor of their town. But with overcrowded serve queues, players had to wait before creating their urban sprawl (or their tidy urban order). Then, when they could play, some gamers were subject to disconnects, causing them to lose game progress. All of their hard work (or is it “hard play?”) was down the drain.
The fact that the game has never before required an always-online component is as abrasive to SimCity fans as, well, Mass Effect 3’s ending.
The poor launch was further exacerbated by EA’s response: that the game had been written with an always-online mode in mind, and that the game could not be played offline without “a significant amount of engineering work.”
Meanwhile, Kotaku played SimCity offline for 19 minutes, thus making EA’s statement look as if they outright lied.
Riccitiello’s will leave the company “in a few weeks” and has not stated his plans for the future. But what about plans for SimCity? Does this mean that EA will reverse its policy—because if the game can actually be played offline, the always-online component is indeed a policy—about requiring an Internet connection to enter your own SimCity? We can only hope.
Coincidentally, EA is currently a contestant on Consumer’s poll for “worst company in America” for 2013. (It had won/lost the poll in 2012.) One person who is likely to vote for EA? The customer that EA had threatened to ban for asking for a refund. Voting begins on March 19th.
However, EA was also named the best place to work for LGBT equality in 2013.
Riccitiello had been CEO and director of EA since 2007. He also had served as EA’s president and COO from 1997 to 2004. According to his Forbes profile, “Prior to re-joining EA, he was a co-founder and Managing Partner at Elevation Partners, a private equity fund.”
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