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EA chief executive Riccitiello resigns

Company moderniser steps down after five years and another expected poor fiscal quarter

Electronic Arts chief executive John Riccitiello will resign on March 30, the publisher has announced.

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Details of his departure are not clear, though EA stated that it was a "mutual" agreement. The outgoing chief executive will benefit from 24 months of salary continuation and various stock options.

In departing, Riccitiello stated: "EA is an outstanding company with creative and talented employees, and it has been an honour 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."

He added: "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."

However, the publisher has revised down its revenue projections for the current quarter, based on lower than expected "levels of usage of the company's digital products" and disappointing initial sales of new games.

Riccitiello's role in the short term will be replaced by Larry Probst, who will stand in as Executive Chairman. The board of directors, now on the hunt for a permanent replacement, will likely be considering the second-in-command Peter Moore as a key contender.

EA's announcement comes in the wake of a dreadful two weeks for the publisher, with its SimCity game widely criticised after denying customers smooth online access to the game.

The announcement also comes at the end of a console cycle and a hard transition period for the company. Since his appointment in 2007, Riccitiello helped modernise EA from a straightforward triple-A publisher into a jack-of-all-trades company that delivered goods across social networks, mobiles, consoles and the digital PC space.

But the company's internal mantra of "fewer, bigger, better" triple-A games has come under scrutiny in the past twelve months. Outside of its EA Sports division, the company has not delivered a universally acknowledged hit since Battlefield 3 in 2011.

Recent major releases - from Crysis 3 to Dead Space 3, Need for Speed Most Wanted and Medal of Honor Warfighter - were not the blockbusters that EA's investors were banking on.

Meanwhile, Star Wars MMO the Old Republic was more of a categorical failure. At its peak, the game barely accounted for a sixth of World of Warcraft's popularity, and its dwindling revenues and relevance, coupled with a general lack of direction post-release, appears to have pulled EA's share price.

But many will suggest EA would have been in worse shape had it not been for the hard decisions that Riccitiello and his executive team had made.

Larry Probst, who was CEO of the company between 1991 and 2007, thanked Riccitiello "especially for the passion, dedication and energy he brought to the company every single day".

Probst continued: "Riccitiello has worked hard to lead the company through challenging transitions in our industry, and was instrumental in driving our very significant growth in digital revenues. We appreciate John's leadership and the many important strategic initiatives he has driven for the company."

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