Electronic Arts Chief John Riccitiello says the tough times facing the industry are a “blessing in disguise” because it will force a lot of “riffraff” out of business and clear the way for genuine innovation and creativity.
Speaking at the 2009 DICE Summit, Riccitiello said he believes the current economic turmoil will ultimately help strengthen and focus the industry when it finally ends. “I actually think the economic crisis that the world moved into in 2008 was a blessing for the game industry,” he told the audience. “First of all, a lot of the riffraff is going to go out of business… It’s hard to compete with junk especially when they’re giving it away for free.”
And while the “riffraff” comment might seem harsh, he saved some criticism for matters closer to home as well. “We did get fat in too many places. It seemed like anyone who could draw a guy with a gun with a crayon could get funded,” he said. “At least for EA, we got a little too fat, and a little too reliant on where things were.”
As a result of the soured economy, he added, that fat now has to be trimmed. His plan is simple: “Start by deciding what’s important,” he said. “Invest heavily in those programs. And cut the rest.”
It may sound cold, particularly to EA employees who find themselves on the fatty side of the cleaver, but under the circumstances there’s little Riccitiello can do but put on a brave face and try to ensure that EA comes out of the current downturn as healthy as it can possibly be. A “cull the herd” mentality may not win him many friends, at least not among people who aren’t shareholders in EA, but he may have a point: Recession-driven changes in the industry may eventually prove beneficial to gamers.
Not that this is the sort of scenario he’d choose to be in, of course. “I’m not pro-recession,” he added, “but to quote Rahm Emanuel, ‘Never waste a crisis’.”