Electronic Arts says Mitch Lasky, the former EA executive who recently criticized the company by saying it's "in the wrong business," should try drinking decaffeinated coffee instead.
Lasky, formerly the executive vice president of EA Mobile, couldn't resist joining in the criticism of EA management last week that came in the wake of yet another disappointing quarter and reduced fiscal year guidance. "EA is in the wrong business, with the wrong cost structure and the wrong team, but somehow they seem to think that it is going to be a smooth, two-year transition from packaged goods to digital," he said. "Think again."
But EA isn't taking that kind of trash-talk lying down, at least not from a guy who they clearly believe (or at least imply) is just shooting his mouth off because he's mad about being passed over for the top job in favor of John Riccitiello. "Mitch needs to try decaf," said Jeff Brown, head of corporate communications at Electronic Arts. "It's never easy being turned down for a job, but most people don't spend three years obsessing about it. Since Mitch left EA, Apple invented the iPhone, Facebook evolved to include a gaming platform and EA Mobile became the world leader."
Not the most politically-phrased response, perhaps, but under the circumstances it's hard to blame Brown for venting a little frustration. Quite possibly adding to that is the fact that Lasky made some very good arguments for why he thinks EA has missed the boat.
"EA has in the past three years invested in a bunch of interesting original IP and has vastly improved product quality. They have many compelling packaged goods games in the pipeline. From a consumer's perspective, there's a lot to be said for that, and many of the comments I have gotten have been centered around EA's turn-around from the hard core gamer's perspective. They have created a ton of goodwill with core gamers," he wrote in a follow-up post on his personal blog.
"My point was not about whether Dead Space was a good game or not. It is," he continued. "But it's largely irrelevant, a bit like winning a hand at a blackjack table in Vegas. The odds are stacked against you long-term. And this is my view of the packaged goods business. We can argue about how long it's going to take, but at some point in the not-too-distant future, the packaged goods games business is going the way of music CDs and books. You may still be buying games for $50 and downloading them (although I kind of doubt that will be the winning model). But one way or another, the games BUSINESS is going to transform into an e-commerce business."
In fact, Riccitiello's echoed Lasky's comments in a call to investors following the company's third quarter financial statement, when he admitted that the company's turnaround is going to take longer than expected. "What we've described as a two-year comeback is clearly taking longer," he said. "But... I think we've got the right strategies going forward and the right team executing them."