EA CEO John Riccitiello is stepping down from the video game giant as of March 30th, the company announced today. His departure comes at a time when EA is struggling with public perception over the troubled launch of SimCity, but the company also simultaneously announced that the game has sold more than one million copies since launching two weeks ago.
The circumstances surrounding Riccitiello's departure aren't clear yet; EA's press release indicates that both the former CEO and newly-appointed Executive Chairman Larry Probst (who served as EA CEO from 1991 until 2007) came to a mutual agreement that the time was right for Riccitiello to move on. Riccitiello has served as CEO since 2007, replacing Probst. As for a new CEO, Probst will lead a search that EA says will include both internal and external candidates.
EA took the opportunity to tout SimCity's success amidst this leadership change, with the company perhaps announcing those one million sales in an effort to diffuse speculation that Riccitiello's departure is related to the incredibly rocky launch period that SimCity is suffering through. Following some major server upgrades, EA is hoping SimCity's troubles are behind it, though the company is also offering some free games as damage control to disgruntled customers. Despite the launch troubles, EA touted some big numbers — 15 million hours of gameplay, 5.7 million cities, and 780 million buildings built to date.
In a statement, Riccitiello said:
EA is an outstanding company with creative and talented employees, and it has been an honor to serve as the Company's CEO. I am proud of what we have accomplished together, and after six years I feel it is the right time for me pass the baton and let new leadership take the Company into its next phase of innovation and growth. I remain very optimistic about EA's future — there is a world class team driving the Company's transition to the next generation of game consoles.
Update: In a letter sent to the board, the former CEO admitted that "we will come in at the low end of, or slightly below, the financial guidance we issued in January, and we have fallen short of the internal operating plan we set one year ago." He then says that he is "accountable for the miss." Depsite that, Polygon reports that he'll be walking away with a full 24 months severance package.