Electronic Arts (EA) has had a rough few years, and the company has decided to lay the blame squarely on its CEO, John Riccitiello. After taking the reins of the company back in 2007, Riccitiello has tendered his resignation.
Although he cited the company's weak financial performance for his departure, that failure is inextricably linked to the bad reputation EA's games have garnered over the last few years.
EA began in 1982 and made its bones with offbeat, high-quality titles such as the remarkable-for-the-time multiplayer "M.U.L.E." and the influential role-playing game "Bard's Tale." In modern times, EA is better known for its series that became mainstream hits, such as "Battlefield," "Dead Space" and "Dragon Age."
EA made a very gradual transition from digital pioneer to figure of scorn, but a number of much-derided decisions during Riccitiello's six-year tenure contributed to that fall. Take the recent " SimCity," as an example: Through a series of poor decisions, EA botched what would have otherwise been a slam-dunk title in a beloved franchise.
"SimCity" was unplayable for many users at launch. EA insisted that the requirement for players to always be online even during single-player mode was necessary for the game to run properly. When one user modified the game so that it could run offline, disproving EA's claim, the company quickly changed its tune, stating in a blog post that offline play simply "didn't fit with our vision."
Likewise, "Dead Space" has had a hard time maintaining a consistent identity. The first entry in the series was a dark, atmospheric action-horror hybrid. While the second installment followed the same formula, EA marketed the game in a decidedly juvenile fashion.
Ads depicted mothers expressing distaste for "Dead Space 2" with the tagline "Your mom will hate it." How these ads were supposed to appeal to anyone age 17 or older — the game's target audience, given its "Mature" rating — is hard to say.
"Dead Space 3" suffered from even more dissonance, adding an option for a second player, an emphasis on Hollywood-style action over horror and the ability to use real money to upgrade in-game weapons. While the purchases were in no way vital to finishing the game, many players objected to these " microtransactions." [See also: 10 Hottest Games for 2013 ]
Players adored game developer BioWare's "Mass Effect" and "Dragon Age: Origins." After EA purchased the company, however, the sequels earned a considerable amount of ire, especially for the lazy leveldesign in "Dragon Age 2" and the unsatisfying ending to "Mass Effect 3," in which three games worth of player-driven narrative choices amounted to almost nothing.
Perhaps the largest debacle for a BioWare series came with the massively multiplayer online game "Star Wars: The Old Republic." Intended as a strong competitor for Blizzard's "World of Warcraft," this Star Wars title was one of the most expensive video games ever produced. However, users bemoaned the lack of activities for experienced players and the extensive similarities to other online games.
Subscribers left the galaxy far, far away in droves. In turn, EA made the game free-to-play, asking users instead to pay for premium features, such as advanced missions and space combat. This served to irritate both subscribers, who felt that they had wasted their money on what would now be a free game, as well as new users, who felt that the free content was too restricted.
Following Riccitiello's announcement of his departure, some gamers have taken to online forums to cheer the news.
"Good riddance," wrote Jim Radley, posting on The Escapist, a magazine for core gamers. "The face of everything wrong with gaming today."
Feelings at Destructoid, another popular gaming site, were similar. "Can I pop open the champagne?" asked reader Roman Monaghan.
Other commenters suggested that EA will pay Riccitiello's $1.7 million severance package via microtransactions or jibed that Riccitiello has been taken offline due to server issues.
If the next EA CEO wants to win back the admiration of core gamers, that person will face an uphill battle. At the very least, perhaps the new boss can keep EA from winning another "Worst Company in America" award.
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