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Feature: 'Designer's Notebook: Is It Time to Dump EA?'

In this latest exclusive Gamasutra feature, veteran designer Ernest Adams, himself a former Electronic Arts employee, takes a look at the history of EA, discuss
In this latest exclusive Gamasutra feature, veteran designer Ernest Adams, himself a former Electronic Arts employee, takes a look at the history of EA, discussing whether he should dump his stock or hold on for the ride, as the world's largest publisher "changes course" in a major way. In his introduction, Adams explains some of the source behind his uneasiness with the path EA is on, reflecting on the company's past, as well as where is may (or should) be heading: ” Electronic Arts’ stock has been in the doldrums for about three years now, and every gain seems to be followed by a setback. A few weeks ago, Larry Probst, Electronic Arts’ longtime CEO, announced that he was retiring in favor of John Riccitiello, a former Chief Operating Officer who left for a few years to work in venture capital, and has now returned to take over the helm. Then a few days ago Reuters reported that “managerial changes” were in the offing, which is code for “somebody’s going to get fired” and that Riccitiello is looking for ways to “improve efficiency,” which is code for “a smaller number of people will have to do the same amount of work.” There’s a shift in the wind; I can feel it coming. I’m not just talking about a few layoffs here. The world’s largest independent video game publisher is changing course. I worked there for eight and a half years, and in that time I accumulated a little stock myself. Most of that time it was a great earner, but lately I’ve begun to wonder: is it time to dump it? What’s next for EA?” He later adds: ”There has also been a growing chorus of complaints in recent years that the quality of EA’s games is slipping and that they don’t innovate any more. I don’t buy enough of EA’s games to have an opinion about it, but if true it’s a worrying trend. EA has some sure-fire properties: Harry Potter, James Bond, The Lord of the Rings, and the NFL. A lineup like that is, in principle, a license to print money. But the company can’t afford to get sloppy; with what it takes to make a triple-A title these days, a major flop could really hurt. If I were Riccitiello, I’d worry less about efficiency and more about quality. Inefficiency hurts right now, but a reputation for poor quality will hurt for years.” You can now read the complete feature, which includes a more detailed, at times controversial analysis of Electronic Arts from the perspective of not only a former employee, but also a current investor in the company, who notes that “EA faces some significant challenges in the years ahead” (no registration required, please feel free to link to this column from external websites).

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