EA and the future: Moore set to replace Riccitiello

Tuesday, 19 March 2013 10:08 GMT By Patrick Garratt

EA confirmed last night that John Riccitiello is to step down as CEO at the end of the month, and Ex-Sega and Microsoft boss Peter Moore is the front-runner to replace him.

John Riccitiello is being unfairly treated by some this morning. EA’s CEO said yesterday he was to leave the company after a second term which began in 2007, and if you listen to “the internet” you’d swear he’d spent the last six years roasting babies and drinking virgin blood. The ex-Pepsi man certainly can be credited with some spectacular fumbles, but considering video gaming’s enduring one of the most tumultuous periods in its history, Riccitiello has done a good job. Electronic Arts still exists, yes?

Let’s have a look at some numbers. Using share prices as a measure of success over the last decade is about as useful as gauging temperature with an egg, so we won’t do that. As you may have noticed, the world’s investment business experienced something of a crisis a few years ago. A company’s share price going down since 2007 is a little like saying there’ll be a new FIFA game for Christmas. It’s been a rough time.

And yet JR’s coped. Here’s revenue since he assumed control of EA again in 2007. In general, it’s going the right way.

And here’s profit. As you can see, there hasn’t been a great deal of it. This is why the share price is in the toilet.

But you can also see from that second graph why it’s the right time for Riccitiello to move out. It’s been a difficult tenure for the executive, one battered by thousands of lay-offs and a violently mutating market, but he’s brought EA back from the brink with – and here it is – strong leadership. He did what he had to do in terms of staff counts and he’s been aggressive in transitioning towards digital. The Old Republic was a disaster, but that’s life. EA’s margins are rising. Well done that man.

So. Who’s next? Unless there’s been some kind of problem with the general cosmic plan, it’s going to be Peter Moore. He’s obviously been groomed for the role, and he has a close relationship to Riccitiello. Moore left Microsoft in July, 2007, less than three months after JR rejoined as CEO. In August 2011, Moore was promoted to chief operating officer of EA, almost certainly as a preparation for Riccitiello leaving the building.

There’s been a lot of forum chatter in the last 24 hours about Frank Gibeau stepping up to CEO, but this is unlikely. Gibeau was promoted to head of EA Labels in the same shuffle which lofted Moore to COO, and while he’s a solid exec he has little of Moore’s experience. Don’t forget Moore was COO of Sega of America in the Dreamcast years (and was in charge during the console’s fabled demise), and was an Xbox 360 launch boss at Microsoft. Moore took the brunt of the RROD disaster just before he left for EA in 2007. He’s been around. He’s heavyweight.

Not only that, but Moore has shown tenacity at EA in managing sports for the publisher, a portfolio which includes FIFA, the largest of EA’s gems. The sports segment is a tough one, but it’s vital training for the EA gods. Annualisation, furious competition, cross-platform SKUs and bizarre console tech: sports has it all. Moore’s kept EA’s trophy cabinet nice and sparkly.

All of which means he’s ready. Riccitiello will exit EA at the end of this month, and leaves behind him a leaner, modernised organisation looking forward to next-gen launches and a new cycle. It could have been very different. JR’s departure is being managed as solidly as the silver-haired fox balanced EA’s books. Don’t be shocked if Moore’s announced as his replacement in the next few weeks.

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