The Ultimate EA Retrospective: In-Depth on Riccitiello’s Legacy
How do you join an organization with the reputation of Darth Vader, only to leave it with the reputation of Emperor Palpatine? In the wake of the surprise — kind of — departure of Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello, set to vacate the lead position at the publishing giant at the end of March, we might now have a blueprint.
Since 2007, both Electronic Arts and the gaming industry as a whole have gone through incredible changes and endured significant challenges. When he assumed command, Riccitiello brought with him a new direction for the company that emphasized digital distribution and downloadable content, initiatives that have since swept through the gaming industry. But the company also was hit hard by the beginnings of the Great Recession in 2008, and even as EA has pushed into new frontiers such as mobile gaming, the company’s stock price has been consistently battered, and EA has frequently failed to hit earnings projections.
Add to this the fact that during Riccitiello’s tenure, EA’s public profile transformed from that of a frequently criticized destroyer of small publishers and factory for endlessly iterated content, to that of a metanym for gaming industry corruption and bad faith relations with the video gaming public. But is this fair? True, Riccitiello’s EA was voted Consumerist’s “Worst Company in America” in 2012 for many a misstep in dealing with customers, and for business practices that many have said are anti-consumer. But during that same time, EA was named among the “Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality” by the Human Rights Campaign. Riccitiello’s term as the head of EA is as nuanced as it is tumultuous, and his departure may well have far-reaching consequences for both the company and the video game industry.
Certainly, as the man at the top, the company’s fortunes were ultimately his responsibility, but that raises the question: Just what were EA’s fortunes?