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Electronics Arts CEO Ousted In Wake of SimCity Launch Disaster 427

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the onward-to-ruin-the-next-company dept.
mozumder writes "The disastrous launch of SimCity took its first major toll, with EA CEO John Riccitiello being fired from his position and removed from the Board of Directors. It is unknown what effect this may have on the SimCity franchise or any future DRM of EA games, but clearly someone didn't think their cunning plan all the way through when they decided to implement always-on connections for single-player gaming."
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Electronics Arts CEO Ousted In Wake of SimCity Launch Disaster

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  • Finally! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shoten (260439) on Monday March 18, 2013 @06:55PM (#43208497)

    Someone at a high level paying the price for DRM-incurred failure. Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out, asshole.

  • Odd (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 18, 2013 @06:57PM (#43208547)

    The press release doesn't mention anything about SimCity. Could it be other causes and you're just trying to bend the message to your own personal fantasies? In any case, I doubt it'll have any real effect on the user of DRM.

  • Tipping point ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jest3r (458429) on Monday March 18, 2013 @06:58PM (#43208559)

    SimCity was the tipping point.

    Remember, EA was recently ranked as the Worst Company in America [gamespot.com]. Gamers have been complaining about EA way before SimCity. Like when EA negotiated an exclusive rights deal on all NFL games and then churned out the worst NFL games for years and years to come. They have ruined many, many franchises.

  • Re:Finally! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shoten (260439) on Monday March 18, 2013 @06:58PM (#43208565)

    A one-time payout at departure...particularly departure for failure...is less than the cumulative pay over time. And it's something he was going to get sooner or later. It's not like departing under good conditions pays worse than departing under bad ones.

  • by Verminator (559609) on Monday March 18, 2013 @06:59PM (#43208571)
    Good riddance. Now kindly proceed rolling heads throughout all upper and middle management, until you get to the first employee who indicated that the always-online feature was an indescribably bad idea. He or she is new CEO.
  • Pure speculation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blarkon (1712194) on Monday March 18, 2013 @07:00PM (#43208591)
    While it's nice to speculate that the guy was fired for reasons that suit the average slashdotter's predilection's about DRM, there is no evidence that this is the case.
  • Re:Fired? What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dan East (318230) on Monday March 18, 2013 @07:01PM (#43208601) Homepage Journal

    When a board member calls up the CEO and says that it's unanimous, it's time for you to leave, the CEO can either save face and "resign", or let the board officially vote them out. Regardless of what they're calling it, "fired" is probably an accurate description.

  • by eksith (2776419) on Monday March 18, 2013 @07:02PM (#43208611) Homepage

    It may have more to do with the fact EA stock went from $40 to $20 since he took office and there are plenty within and without the company that want to move into mobile gaming more and he's in the way. The board may also believe fresh blood will bring in a new way of doing things in the gaming sphere. I hope they take this opportunity to actually do some worthwhile changes; first being getting rid of or at least finding a better DRM mechanism (since I'm sure there are some dinosaurs who think DRM is still a workable system) and branch out.

    They should learn a lesson from Atari. Inheritence isn't how you hold on to the throne. If blood must be spilled, then so be it.

  • Re:Finally! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pipatron (966506) <pipatron@gmail.com> on Monday March 18, 2013 @07:06PM (#43208643) Homepage

    I think this is much more a PR move than it is a financial move.

    They want to show that they have "solved" the problem and that it will not happen again, by letting a manager walk. I'm pretty sure the full board of directors knew perfectly well what was going on with Sim City, and it is not likely that the CEO was the only one driving this through.

  • by DRJlaw (946416) on Monday March 18, 2013 @07:21PM (#43208795)

    While it's nice to speculate that the guy was fired for reasons that suit the average slashdotter's predilection's about DRM, there is no evidence that this is the case.

    In the real world, and even in the legal world, circumstantial evidence [wikipedia.org] is still evidence. You're welcome to offer direct evidence to the contrary... but direct evidence has never been a requirement for criminal convictions, much less individual opinion concening massive business failures followed closely by executives seeking more time with their families.

    "No evidence" is usually a euphamism for "LALALALA I CAN'T HEAR YOU LALALALA." You're welcome to offer a better explanation, but there is certainly evidence that this is the case.

  • Re:Finally! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Fluffeh (1273756) on Monday March 18, 2013 @07:26PM (#43208841)

    ... and totally won't just go do the same kind of shit elsewhere.

    Actually, I think you might underestimate how "big companies" look to other "big companies" to see what to do and what not to do. If this was some little dev house, no it wouldn't make a difference in the world. Given that it is such a large company, others might actually take some notice.

    Also, there is a good chance that given such a negative dismissal, he is going to find it harder to get into the next position. Not to say that he won't, but it likely won't be as good as he had hoped for.

  • Re:Finally! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday March 18, 2013 @07:27PM (#43208853) Journal

    I offer my services as CEO. I might fail, but I'd be willing to do it at half the price.

    I honestly have to wonder, at this point, why somebody hasn't caught on to the 'get random Indian H1Bs to fail at leadership for 40k/year and pocket the savings' strategy...

  • Re:Finally! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Guppy06 (410832) on Monday March 18, 2013 @07:30PM (#43208889)

    Someone at a high level paying the price

    Golden parachute.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday March 18, 2013 @07:31PM (#43208891) Journal

    Serious question... is this the first time an exec was ousted for a mistake with DRM?

    If memory serves, one of the more plausible reasons posited for SimCity's ill-conceived launch was that it was right before EA's financial year wrapped up. I don't think that anybody who mattered gave a damn about DRM; but mangling the DRM-induced server hooks so badly that total non-techie rags like Forbes were writing articles about it... That just doesn't look competent.

    If anything, DRM(as a lock-in and market segmentation strategy) is something that team management would probably earn points for; but only if they can pull it off well enough to win more than it costs them. People like Apple and Valve, yes. EA, not so much.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 18, 2013 @07:37PM (#43208945)

    Take off the Gamer Goggles.

    The world through Gamer Goggles: EA is an evil company that kidnapped NFL execs' pets until they signed a usurious contract and churned out crap NFL-branded games.

    The world through Reality Goggles: The NFL approached EA about a licensing deal in the first place, and the Madden series has continued to be one of the strongest sports game franchises.

    Sorry guy, not everything is a huge conspiracy on a corporate level to put out bad games. Just because you happen to dislike them doesn't make millions of other games' experiences any less positive.

  • Re:Finally! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by atheistmonk (1268392) on Monday March 18, 2013 @07:41PM (#43208987) Homepage
    Too bad this didn't happen with Blizzard after Diablo 3 as well. Fuck this always-online NWO bullshit.
  • by jxander (2605655) on Monday March 18, 2013 @07:49PM (#43209049)

    He wasn't ousted for DRM, but failing to execute the DRM properly.

    If the servers had been even REMOTELY close to sufficient for a day 1 load, the manager would still be onboard and the DRM would be proven successful. As that was not the case, the problem is the manager failing to properly plan for launch day activities. The DRM is still successful and will be implemented in subsequent EA releases.

  • Re:Finally! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rolfwind (528248) on Monday March 18, 2013 @07:53PM (#43209079)

    The buck has to stop somewhere. If the Chief Executive Officers can't take responsibilty, what are they being paid for?

    Besides, DRM for a single game sounds way more like a CEO decision at best and not a board decision.

  • Re:Finally! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GumphMaster (772693) on Monday March 18, 2013 @08:01PM (#43209151)

    Yes, but he still gets the "pay over time", just from some other company, because he's a member of the endlessly rotating pool of CxO/Director/Board Members.

  • Re:Finally! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jxander (2605655) on Monday March 18, 2013 @08:23PM (#43209363)

    At least Blizzard had an excuse, if a flimsy one : D3 had a Real-Money auction house... so a lot of the code was kept on their servers, to hopefully prevent enterprising hackers from exploiting bugs to make millions of real dollars. I admittedly haven't tracked how successful that was

    SimCity has no such excuse. What's the worst an enterprising hacker could accomplish here? Fixing the roadways? EA's always-on DRM was pure unexcused buttfuckery.

  • Re:Finally! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Monday March 18, 2013 @08:23PM (#43209367)

    Besides, DRM for a single game sounds way more like a CEO decision at best and not a board decision.

    You mean a strategic decision to incorporate DRM into all of its products, and its long history of using always-on DRM, is a decision that was made without any input from people responsible for the financial success of the company?

    I don't think so. No, the board was told. They may not have been told SimCity was traditionally single player. They may not have been given crucial details about this particular product... but they most definately knew DRM was being put into all of its products "to combat piracy", which they took to mean "increased revenues".

    See, the problem here is that "combat piracy" didn't translate to "increased revenues" in this case, and that's why he's getting shitcanned. He's the fall guy so they can go to investors and say "Well, it worked all the other times, and he assured us it would be the same with this product!" Yeah. Right. CYA strategy 101: Either place the blame on one person, or blame an overly complex process that nobody was individually responsible for. Guess which one they went with?

  • Re:Finally! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Albanach (527650) on Monday March 18, 2013 @08:31PM (#43209425) Homepage

    Besides, DRM for a single game sounds way more like a CEO decision at best and not a board decision.

    I'd imagine the bigger problem was when customers found out they'd been lied to by the rapid emergence of a hack enabling offline single-user play. Even if the CEO wasn't involved in the early stages you can bet he was closely involved after the initial Amazon cock-up.

    Had they been upfront and honest with customers and pledged to make an offline version available in response to the overwhelming demand, things might not have gotten to be so bad. Instead, someone decided to further propagate a lie.

    Even the lowest quality MBA factories teach the basic rule of 'when in a hole stop digging.' The better business schools will teach it frequently. Compounding the problem when the company's back was already against the wall was an elementary mistake and one which rightly cost the CEO his job.

  • It wasn't the DRM (Score:5, Insightful)

    by meta-monkey (321000) on Monday March 18, 2013 @08:32PM (#43209437) Journal

    First, it wasn't necessarily the failure of SimCity that caused the job change. Second, the existence of the DRM wasn't the reason SimCity is a disaster.

    SimCity is a disaster because of the implementation of the DRM, the PR surrounding the DRM, and then the fact that it's just a completely broken non-simulation.

    Implementation failure.

    Just having an account sign-on for DRM authentication is a thumbs-down, for sure, but it isn't a guaranteed game killer. Case in point, StarCraft 2. I do not like having to sign on to play the single player campaigns, but I've never had a problem logging in, even on day 1 of Wings of Liberty or day 1 of Heart of the Swarm.

    With SimCity, however, I was unable to log on and play for 3 days after launch. After that I never had server problems, but there are many people who are still unable to stay connected or who are having their cities (which are saved on EA's computers) erased or rolled back.

    The lesson is, if you're going to force people to sign on to play a single-player game, you better fucking make sure they can sign on to play their single-player game.

    PR failure

    I don't think Blizzard ever lied to people about why they had to sign on to battle.net for StarCraft. "It's 'cause DRMs." Lucy Bradshaw, the Maxis spokesweasal has stated that SimCity just had to be always connected because EA's servers are performing "significant computations" that just have to be done by their servers. Their terrible "sims go the nearest house to sleep" AI has gotta be run on their Beowulf cluster of HAL 9000s. The beast of a gaming rig under my desk clearly isn't up to the task.

    Of course this is a monstrously stupid lie, and obvious to anyone who has any experience with video games or computers or breathing. This falls into the "pissing on me and telling me it's raining" category. If you're going to piss on me, at least be honest about it. And don't eat asparagus first.

    Game failure

    Despite all that, the real problem with SimCity is once you actually are able to get in and play, you find that they did not actually make a city simulation game, they just made a pretty city drawing program.

    You lay out reasonable street designs, but they get snarled with traffic because the sims do not know where they're going to end up when they leave their homes for work in the morning or when they come home at night. They pick as their destination the nearest place that meets their need and go there first via the shortest path. If when they get there they find the place is already filled up, they go to the next closest place. So imagine if all 400 people who live in your neighborhood were coming home from work at the same time, but instead of going to their actual homes (or whatever place they're going to end up sleeping) they all came to your house first. And after 2 of them crash on your floor, the remaining 398 go next door and all knock there. And then the remaining 396 go to the next house after that, etc etc.

    Next, the whole RCI balance mechanic has been the core of SimCity forever, and that's completely gone. Residential areas are supposed to need Commercial areas so people have a place to buy things (or work). Commercial needs shoppers, workers, and goods. Industry provides jobs for residents and goods for Commerce. They broke all of that, because sims, it seems, can live on love. All they need to not move out of their homes is "happiness," which can be obtained from shopping (commerce) but can also be obtained from city parks. So people have made 400k+ population cities that are absolutely nothing but residential high rises and parks. The people have no jobs and no money and no food, but they can still live in gleaming skyscrapers because I guess they're urban foraging in the parks.

    So, yeah, you can "solve the puzzle" and make cities that don't collapse, but they're completely ridiculous, so it's not a city simulation game. It'd be like having a flight simulator where the rudder has no effect on y

  • Re:Finally! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Monday March 18, 2013 @08:33PM (#43209441)

    Because being a CEO is a lot more than what it appears on the outside. These guys don't "know" about all the stuff we attribute to them. Their job is to hire smart people, listen to reasoned arguments, and then make choices. When they listen to the wrong arguments, they get fired in spectacular fashion and the people they listen to simply get listened to a little less. This was a public relations disaster, that's why he got fired. If you think for a second anyone at EA thinks DRM is a bad idea, or even that THIS DRM was a bad idea you're living in a fantasy. He got fired because the DRM wasn't test well enough, and now the public wont trust EAs fancy new DRM system for their next game. The problem here was they didn't have anyone to blame this on but themselves. If they'd made the account provider a 3rd party they'd have had an easy scape goat. My prediction? Facebook login required to play our game comes next. This, of course, is so you can update your friends on your game progress... not to track everything you do and monetize it.

  • Re:Finally! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Darinbob (1142669) on Monday March 18, 2013 @08:39PM (#43209493)

    The departure pay may be more than many of his employees will see in their lifetimes.

  • Re:Finally! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 18, 2013 @08:42PM (#43209511)

    It's not like departing under good conditions pays worse than departing under bad ones.

    His career just got derailed. Who's gonna hire a guy who presided over the biggest disaster ever at his previous company? Leaving on good terms, or quitting, or resigning, all have the potential for later career opportunities. Getting fired and told you're a complete and abject failure? Not so much.

    In yours and my world, yes. For CEOs, not necessarily. They live by different rules and have far greater connections. Very easy for him to tell his cronies it was some underling and he just took the fall because that's what good CEOs do.

  • Re:Finally! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Darinbob (1142669) on Monday March 18, 2013 @08:44PM (#43209525)

    These guys do get hired. A failure means he's now got more experience. Companies never hire executives from outside the executive gene pool.

    What are their jobs? To socialize with bankers and investors, occasionally give a speech to the workers, and not much else.

    Besides when you get down to it, it wasn't his fault that things screwed up with the launch. Sure if it had gone great he would have taken 100% of the credit (another job of CEOs). But practically speaking the failures are just as much do to him as the successes are. He's probably not entirely clear was DRM stands for and has probably never even played the game. The fault lies with the designers and operations.

    He just took one for the team is all. The team being the rest of the board of directors. He'll get a nice departure bonus, and end up on the board of some other company.

  • by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Monday March 18, 2013 @08:50PM (#43209579) Journal

    Whether or not that asshole got sacked, or how he got sacked, isn't important

    What's more important is if EA gonna let users enjoy SC5 without been unnecessarily burdened by the online DRM ?

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Monday March 18, 2013 @09:07PM (#43209731)

    I highly doubt EA's quarterly report includes Sim City already. More likely it was every game except for Sim City--and had nothing to do with DRM in the slightest.

    Maybe it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back? After coming in below target on multiple projects, they may have been considering it, but seeing how this latest one completely cratered to the point they're having to give away their product in an attempt to maintain credibility with their customers while warding off massive amounts of bad PR... the board may simply have said enough is enough. SimCity may not be on the ledger, but when your latest failure in a string of them is by far the worst, and most publicized, it's foolish to think it wasn't given serious weight in the decision.

  • Allow me to say that this is further proof that VOTING WITH YOUR DOLLARS WORKS and it works VERY well, its just not magical or instant.

    Remember folks this is NOT just about SImcity, its about how under his watch sales have gone down as he ran off more and more customers with douchebag behavior, from gouging on DLC to bad DRM schemes to bad services like Origin John Riccitiello has done for EA what Steve Ballmer has done for MSFT, run it into the ground. And I'm proud to say many folks have voted with their wallets and refused to buy these "DRMapaloza" games that treat the customer as a criminal, just look at how hard Activision and Ubisoft had their sales hit for this kind of shit, with Ubisoft going so far as to remove it from their games and apologize for it.

    So just don't buy products that treat you like crap, vote with your wallet and you CAN change things, just not overnight. EA under John Riccitiello has been widely derided for bad behavior [escapistmagazine.com] so its really no surprise that people voted with their wallets, we need to continue to refuse to buy products that treat us like crap. As long as D3 is always online I won't have it, i instead bought my friends and family Torchlight II instead, I refuse to buy any game that treats me badly and encourage everyone to do the same as we CAN make a difference, it just takes time.

  • Fired (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) on Monday March 18, 2013 @09:46PM (#43209995)
    He was fired. At the CEO level, they don't hand you a check and take your key and have the security droid escort you out of the building. He's being paid what his contract says he will be paid when he is terminated, and the face-saving fiction is that he is allowed to resign effective March 30. However, make no mistake; he was fired.
  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Monday March 18, 2013 @10:52PM (#43210357)

    Lighten up, will you? This is no place for picking on newbies. Or, for treating old timers as newbies. Or for recycling lame jokes.

    No, but it is THE place where sarcasm is interpreted literally, to the great amusement of those whose sense of humor hasn't been surgically removed. Also, every joke has been recycled. I mean, they've made entire TV series out of recycled jokes. Like The Big Bang Theory (vomits in mouth)...

  • by AK Marc (707885) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @12:26AM (#43210791)
    Having worked in a company that big, there's nothing the CEO could have done about it. Everyone would have lied to him "oh, it's going good, it'll be great" if he asked, and he'd be so far out of development, he'd have no way of knowing that something was buggy or not ready. Just have to shuffle CEOs around so that they look like they are worth $100,000,000 per year, when they outsource on the basis of "supply and demand" and any of a million people would take his job, and apparently, not many could do it worse.
  • by Cederic (9623) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @05:37AM (#43211709) Journal

    .. after which you end up back at Dwarf Fortress.

    One bloke intent on building a game so deep that it takes sixteen materials and four different crafts to create a metal bucket (then measures individual happiness on how pretty it is) is modelling individual actors right down to the loss of an arm, the saving that makes in gloves, the work that individual can now do and how upset his family are about it.

    And EA with a budget in the tens of millions can't even work out basics such as 'works here, earns that, lives there, wants food/entertainment/job/sleep'..

    Hell, the Tropico series manages it, and they depict all of the individuals. Crunching the numbers in the background without displaying each person is easier, and should scale up to SimCity levels. Certainly for the first few hundred thousand.

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