UPDATE 4: EA second in command Peter Moore has defended John Riccitiello after an article poked fun at his departure.
In a post on Facebook, reported by GamesIndustry International, Moore, tipped to replace Riccitiello as boss of EA, accused Kotaku of "reveling in what, due to their self-smugness, they don't realize is a sad day for our industry".
The Kotaku article that prompted the outburst is called "The Best John Riccitiello Jokes Twitter Has To Offer". It does exactly what it says on the tin.
"Kotaku reveling in what, due to their self-smugness, they don't realize is a sad day for our industry, which is the platform on which they actually make money," Moore said.
"John not only helped propel our company and interactive entertainment into new experiences, thus enticing millions of new people to become 'gamers', his work leading the ESA in recent years has helped ensure that we don't experience the fate of the music industry."
Moore continued: "Sad loss for all of us who had the pleasure of working with him as we emerged from The Burning Platform."
UPDATE 3: Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter has told Eurogamer John Riccitiello's resignation letter, which sent shockwaves throughout the industry last night, was "prompted by the board" of EA.
Pachter, who once joked that John Riccitiello feared for his job following a lunch meeting in which EA's plummeting share price was discussed, said he "loved" Riccitiello, thought he had the gargantuan company "on the right track" and "really well positioned to thrive the next few years".
Riccitiello resigned last night saying he was accountable for lower than expected revenue for the financial year ending 30th March 2013.
Pachter said this was a "pretty weak excuse".
"If you read his resignation letter, it was clearly prompted by the board," he said. "I think that missing guidance is a pretty weak excuse to fire him, particularly since the industry was down 24 per cent last year, and EA managed to gain share and grow its digital business.
"My guess is that the board couldn't get over the Star Wars disaster (one of the reasons for buying Pandemic/BioWare), and the departures of the doctors, the departures of all of the PlayFish guys, and lackluster social and PopCap results just tipped them against him.
"The missed guidance was the straw that broke the camel's back."
UPDATE 2: Senior principal analyst at IHS Screen Digest, Piers Harding-Rolls, has shared his thoughts on Riccitiello's resignation with Eurogamer.
"Much of the ground work for the company's future performance has been firmly laid and the console industry is going through a generational transition," said Harding-Rolls. He explained that Riccitiello did a fine job during this transitional period and noted that "the company is much better positioned than it was three or four years ago."
"On this basis, this represents a good time for a change in leadership to prepare for the next console generation and to drive forward the next stage of its transformation," Harding-Rolls continued. "We don't see this as a change in strategy and there is still significant work to be done."
While it's speculated that COO Peter Moore is next in line for the position, Harding-Rolls said, "While Peter Moore is the natural successor to Riccitiello and hugely experienced, the board may look to widen its CEO search to other compatible industries if it felt this would aid in its transformation."
UPDATE 1: EA has released Riccitiello's resignation letter. The full text is as follows:
I hereby offer my resignation as CEO of Electronic Arts effective with the end of our Fiscal Year 13 on March 30, 2013.
This is a tough decision, but it all comes down to accountability. The progress EA has made on transitioning to digital games and services is something I'm extremely proud of. However, it currently looks like we will come in at the low end of, or slightly below, the financial guidance we issued in January, and we have fallen short of the internal operating plan we set one year ago. EA's shareholders and employees expect better and I am accountable for the miss.
I have been at the helm as EA's CEO for six years and served as COO for nearly seven years starting in 1997. I know this company well, and I care deeply about its future success. I leave knowing EA is a great company, with an enormously talented group of leaders and the strongest slate of games in the industry. I could not be more proud of our company's games, from Battlefield and FIFA, to The Simpsons: Tapped Out and Real Racing 3. We have built many great franchises that will serve the company well in FY14 and beyond. In particular, I am confident that the investments we have made in games for next-generation consoles will put EA in a strong leadership position for many years ahead.
In offering my resignation, my goal is to allow the talented leaders at EA a clean start on FY14. I look forward to working with you in the coming weeks on an effective leadership transition. I'm extremely honored to have led this company and proud to have worked with all the great people at Electronic Arts.
Since Riccitiello's departure EA stock has risen 2.89 per cent, suggesting that investors are in favour of this transition.
ORIGINAL STORY: John Riccitiello will be stepping down from his mantle as EA's CEO on 30th March as the publisher seeks to crown a new chief executive officer.
In the interim, EA's board has appointed Larry Probst as the interim leader until a new ruler is announced.
Probst is no stranger to leadership positions as he previously served as the publisher's CEO from 1991 to 2007 where he managed to grow the company's revenue from $175 million to approximately $3 billion.
"We thank John for his contributions to EA since he was appointed CEO in 2007, especially the passion, dedication and energy he brought to the company every single day," said Probst. "John has worked hard to lead the company through challenging transitions in our industry, and was instrumental in driving our very significant growth in digital revenues."
Probst made sure to note that all parties "mutually agreed that this is the right time for a leadership transition," though Riccitiello stepping down without an immediate successor has raised some eyebrows. We're following up with EA to see if we can get to the bottom of this.
Riccitiello stated in his resignation that "EA is an outstanding company with creative and talented employees, and it has been an honour to serve as the company's CEO. I am proud of what we have accomplished together, and after six years I feel it is the right time for me pass the baton and let new leadership take the company into its next phase of innovation and growth."