Andrew Wilson New Electronic Arts CEO
SEPT. 18, 2013 • Electronic Arts has pulled from within to fill the chief executive post vacated by the departure of John Riccitiello last March. Andrew Wilson, the executive vice president of EA Sports and the Origin online portal for digital games and services, has been tapped to become the Electronic Arts CEO. Wilson has substantial game studio experience that includes executive producer of the FIFA series, as well as a stint at the company’s Seoul studio. The appointment makes Wilson the first design executive to become chief executive at EA. No broad changes in strategy at the publisher is expected as Wilson confirmed in a letter to employees that current policy on next-generation consoles, mobile, PC free-to-play, and the ongoing transition to digital, is sound. Interim CEO Larry Probst will continue on as executive chairman.
Impact: In turning to a hands-on content manager, Electronic Arts is making a strong statement. Older hands with higher seniority, such as EA Label president Frank Gibeau, and chief operating officer Peter Moore, were passed over in selecting Wilson. For years we have noted that EA’s biggest shortcoming is a lack of compelling new IP, and too much reliance on sports franchises such as Madden and FIFA. Distribution platforms may change and adapt, but EA’s biggest burden is creating more content that consumers clamor to own. This goal was widely touted by Mr. Riccitiello and his team, but progress was slow and generally insufficient. Choosing Mr. Wilson signals the board went to the bench to find someone they felt can speed up the process. In football parlance, they chose the promising third-string rookie quarterback over the more experienced quarterbacks higher on the roster. True, Wilson’s FIFA credentials are compelling. FIFA 13 accounted for 17% of total EA sales during fiscal 2013. But incremental annual changes to already successful sports franchises is not the same thing as creating new IP that sells across multiple platforms. Perhaps Wilson has a better read on what gamers want to play these days. EA is a huge operation and it is a daunting challenge to stay up-to-date on all of the various projects in the works with sufficient background and perspective to deftly nurture those that break new ground, as well as close down games in development that are falling short of expectations. We dare say it is a more difficult job than elevating Colin Kaepernick to lead the San Francisco 49ers.