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Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello steps down

March 18, 2013|By Dawn C. Chmielewski
  • Electronic Arts Chief Executive John Riccitiello will step down March 30, as the company warns it may report lower than expected quarterly earnings. Gamers complained of online connectivity problems with the new version of its beloved PC title "SimCity," whose concept art for a waterfront city is shown in this image.
Electronic Arts Chief Executive John Riccitiello will step down March… (Associated Press )

Video game publisher Electronic Arts said Monday that John Riccitiello will step down as chief executive, as it warned that fourth-quarter earnings could fall short of expectations.

The board appointed Larry Probst, the chairman of the board and its former chief executive, to serve as executive chairman while the company conducts a search for a new chief executive.

Riccitiello was named to the post in 2007, and led the company as the industry has undergone dramatic changes. His resignation is effective March 30.

Probst had served as the company's chief executive from 1991 through 2007, and was elevated to chairman of the board in 1994. Under his tenure, the company's annual revenues grew to $3 billion from $175 million.

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"John has worked hard to lead the company through challenging transitions in the industry and was instrumental in driving our very significant growth in digital revenues," Probst said in a statement.

The leadership change comes as EA warns that its revenue and earnings per share for the upcoming quarter, to be reported May 7, will be at the low end of, or slightly below, previous guidance. The company said results may be affected by a number of factors, including use of its digital products and initial sales of new products.

Riccitiello's departure follows high-profile embarrassments for EA, including well-publicized problems with the most recent update of its beloved PC game franchise "SimCity," for which the company issued an apology. Players complained they couldn't log on or would get kicked off as they attempted to play the game.

EA encountered similar problems with "Star Wars: The Old Republic," which the company was forced to convert to free online play.

"Electronic Arts and the sector have been struggling," said P.J. McNealy, chief executive of Digital World Research. "There's plenty of external competition to consoles, and competition within consoles."

McNealy said Electronic Arts has been battling with rival Activision, which has hot-selling titles such as "Skylanders" and "Call of Duty: Black Ops II."

"EA has tried to take on Activision head-on and it's been a little painful," McNealy said.

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