The past few weeks in the gaming industry have been an interesting one. For those unfamiliar with the situation, SimCity released on March 5th of this year and has caused quite a controversy. Typically a single-player offline-only game, EA funded studio Maxis decided to make the latest iteration of SimCity require an always on connection and told fans it was due to “complex calculations” that had to take place on EA’s servers. It didn’t take long before Reddit and the rest of the Internet dissected the code in the game and found out that the complex calculations EA hinted at were a flat out lie.
Initially, EA was quiet about the SimCity issue, only issuing a statement that they were committed to fixing the server problems that prevented people from playing the game they purchased. This wasn’t enough for most of the gaming press and many gamers, which led to a backlash on social networking sites and EA’s Facebook pages. Eventually, the company addressed the problem by offering customers who had purchased the game a free game. However, the damage had been done.
Yesterday John Riccitiello–the CEO of EA–announced that he was resigning the position effectively March 30th. Former CEO Larry Probst will be taking over for the company after that date. Yesterday after the announcement, EA stock prices rose 7% in after-hours trading due to the announcement. But what does this announcement mean for Nintendo fans, since the relationship between Nintendo and EA has been a noticeably rocky one from the start?
A Fresh Start for Nintendo Relations
Axing the head of a company is never a small thing, as noted by the stock prices rising directly after the announcement. Riccitiello was head of Electronic Arts from 2007 until now. During his tenure, many gamers have hated the direction the company took, such as adding micro-transactions to games like Dead Space 3 and running once proud studios like Bioware and DICE into the ground. It’s a hard pill to swallow and Riccitiello himself is owning up to it. In an internal memo to EA staff, Riccitiello stated:
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.
So what direction will EA take next? It’s hard to say. Riccitiello has been CEO of the company for nearly 10 years. A CEO certainly has influence over the direction a company takes, but by no means does his resignation mean EA will magically “see the light” and start releasing better games with fewer micro-transactions, or that the company will start paying attention to the Wii U. Nintendo’s problems with EA are the same problems it has with any other publisher. EA wants to see a significant install base before it will release games like Crysis 3, DeadSpace 3, and Battlefield 4 on the system. Gamers won’t buy a system until it has the games they want. It’s a chicken and the egg problem that requires a bit of effort on both Nintendo and EA’s part. Now with Riccitiello gone, that could actually begin.
Ideally, Nintendo would have the same relationship with EA that it has with Ubisoft. Despite a few missteps here and there, Ubisoft has been an enthusiastic third-party partner for the Wii U. It released Assassin’s Creed 3 as a launch title on the platform, as well as ZombiU which was an exclusive launch title. Rayman Legends was also announced at the same time as the Wii U and although that has been pushed back for later release, it is still coming to the platform. On top of that, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag has been announced so no matter your feelings on Ubisoft, the French publisher has done more than its fair share to support Nintendo.
With a new leader at the helm, we could see the tides turn toward working with Nintendo instead of against it. Leadership at EA realizes the direction the company took with many of its products is wrong, so efforts will be made to get the company back on track. This means patching up SimCity so gamers are satisfied, releasing less half-finished content like Dead Space 3 and Dragon Age II, and ideally, focusing on bringing games to a the hungry audience that is Wii U owners.
What do you think of Riccitiello’s resignation? Do you believe EA will turn over a new leaf with this announcement, or will they be the same company they’ve always been? Let us know in the comments.