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The quotable John Riccitiello
The quotable John Riccitiello
March 20, 2013 | By Frank Cifaldi

Whatever your opinion of EA's former CEO John Riccitiello, whether you think he was too slow to embrace emerging markets, think he was too fast and spend-happy with trends or somewhere in between, it's hard to deny that the man gives a good interview.

Riccitiello has always been an infinitely quotable executive, which is great fodder for journalists like us. He's always been direct, off-the-cuff and, when needed, can even hit below his competition's belt a little bit, if it means getting some press out of it.

We've gone through six years of Gamasutra's archives to dig out some of our favorite John Riccitiello quotes, which are presented here in no particular order. Reading through these, with the slight peppering of context we've provided, is not just entertaining: it also gives a pretty accurate snapshot of Riccitiello's reign as EA's leader, investing heavily in unproven emerging markets, cutting costs by slashing EA's headcount, and admitting (and hopefully learning from) his mistakes along the way.
"People admire game companies that take risks but in retrospect they only seem to admire game companies that take risks when the risks work."
- In an interview shortly after making the tough decision to cancel NBA Elite after the game went gold.
"We don’t hire 100 people in China to avoid hiring 100 people in California; we hire 100 people in China so we can afford to hire 30 people in California."
- On the "uncomfortable" topic of outsourcing during his keynote at the 2009 DICE Summit.
"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. At least for EA, we got a little too fat, and a little too reliant on where things were."
- Riccitiello explains how declining retail game sales are a "blessing in disguise" for creative games.
"The bulk of video games, like Beatles: Rock Band, are going to pick up in a big way before the next holiday. I want to point out the number one grossing application on iPhone now is Beatles: Rock Band."
- In an interview with Fox Business from November 2009, Riccitiello employs a "wait and see" strategy for what was probably EA's largest investment in what turned out to be a temporary plastic instrument craze. Sales of the game are generally thought to have remained disappointing over the holiday period.
"My kids are still listening to music even though Tower Records is gone."
- In a 2009 interview with Gamasutra, Riccitiello explains how looking at retail game sales' collapse is a narrow view of the entire video game landscape.
"It takes a while to get a team used to not sitting next to the team that’s putting the art together. But now they’re pretty happy. They put out two key frames before they go home... they come back in the morning and they’ve got sometimes a man-month of work done overnight as 30, 40 people worked on the art in China."
- Riccitiello tells investors at a Merrill Lynch conference that his employees are ultimately happier after having their colleagues' jobs outsourced.
"I can imagine [the government] trying to tell Steven Spielberg 'We need 50 different cuts of your movie for each state.' It will screw us up in a real way."
- Ahead of the landmark Supreme Court decision that protected expression through video games as a First Amendment right, Riccitiello ponders just how dangerous the opposite decision could have been for the entirety of the entertainment industry.
"We're responsible, we're mature, we tend to be a part of the solution. Our media reaches literally every American, and that can be used as a voice for good."
- Following a meeting with Vice President Joe Biden, Riccitiello tells his investors that showing the public the good side of games is the key to fixing what has become a perception problem.
"Medal of Honor didn't deliver, and we underestimated the overall softness of the console goods sector."
- Riccitiello explains to his investors why EA's crucial holiday 2012 quarter was well below the company's expectations, in what turned out to be his final quarterly conference call as EA's CEO.
"So we're not Babe Ruth at the plate pointing to a grand slam home run here, but we are telling you that we can do really well in this sector, and we think we've got the right portfolio of intellectual property and development teams on the job."
- Riccitiello explains what he saw as a huge potential for EA on Facebook, back in July of 2011.
"Consumers won't pay for crap."
- Speaking at a conference over a year later, Riccitiello bluntly explains why browser-based social games are on the decline.
"I think if you speak to them, would probably say they believe in the Electronic Arts story and sort of where it's going. So I don't feel at all weakened by it."
- Riccitiello speaks out about why he felt a number of his executives defected from EA to (it turns out, temporarily) take new positions at Zynga.
"You will fail. That is, if you want to succeed in any way that really matters."
- Riccitiello gives a speech about learning from mistakes in a commencement speech to UC Berkeley's graduating class.
"I guess it worked."
- Riccitiello gets coy when talking about Barack Obama placing in-game ads in EA titles prior to his presidency.
"In a way, theirs is a silent movie and ours is the first talkie. By and large, theirs is not a voiced MMO. Ours is a fully voiced MMO in multiple languages."
- Riccitiello explains to business colleagues why he felt The Old Republic was in a good position to take on World of Warcraft.
"Personally, I'm not really afraid of controversy. If you look past the controversy, you can see the games sell because they're great games."
- Riccitiello discusses Grand Theft Auto maker Rockstar ahead of a proposed purchase of owner Take-Two Games that ultimately fell through.
"Let me assure you that almost all of us in the industry made the same judgment - after so many transitions guessing exactly right, we got this one a little bit wrong, and we're dealing with it now with strong investments on the Wii."
- Riccitiello jumps on the temporary Wii bandwagon after it emerged as the console with the highest install base in 2007. EA would all but abandon the console soon after.
"We're boring people to death and making games that are harder and harder to play."
- In 2007, Riccitiello expresses frustration at what he saw as a stagnant industry.
"Leading EA has always been my dream job and I am truly honored that Larry and the Board have given me this opportunity."
- Riccitiello comes across as gleeful in a 2007 press release announcing his appointment as EA's CEO.

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Tyler Shogren
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“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.” -Ghandi

Or as it's often paraphrased: "Be the change you wish to see in the world."

Chris Buzon
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Having worked with EA for the last few years -I can honestly say I am going to miss JR for several reasons. One of those reasons is his incredible ability to speak to crowds.

Jimmy Albright
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I have no professional experience with programming games (only really exciting business applications) but I would definitely work for Mr. Riccitiello.

My impression of his career is that he tried (with mixed results) to keep profits high and consumers happy, not an easy task to please shareholders AND gamers.

I'm interested to see where he's headed next, and it's good to hear some nice things about the guy after the rap EA gets.

Merc Hoffner
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"he tried (with mixed results) to keep profits high and consumers happy"

Did he do either?

The basic idea is that if you get one right, the other one follows. If there's a dissociation between the two then there's probably something wrong with the business strategy you're trying to cultivate.

Lewis Wakeford
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"Consumers won't pay for crap."

I've never really paid much attention to him before, but this guy seems all right. He greenlit quite a few good games (which where risky at the time) towards the start of his time as CEO and most of them are now EA's big cash cows. I wonder if he was actually that bad or if he was just unlucky and got caught in one too many "shareholder bullshit" situations.

Alexander Freed
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Whatever Riccitiello's failures and flaws (real and imagined), it's hard to read some of those quotes and not think, "It's nice to see someone in power saying that." Talk isn't the same as action, of course, but it's a place to start.

Ron Dippold
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These are far too sane. Will we ever have the quote nirvana of PS3 launch era Sony execs again?

Jeremie Sinic
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"We're boring people to death and making games that are harder and harder to play."
I guess the industry got the memo...

Ben Lewis
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"We're boring people to death and making games that are harder and harder to play." - JR, July 2007

And thanks to releases from EA and other publishers later that year, 2007 is now widely regarded as the best year for games in recent history, especially for new IP. We got The Orange Box (and thus Portal and Team Fortress 2), Mass Effect, Rock Band, Crysis, BioShock, Super Mario Galaxy, Uncharted, Odin Sphere, CoD 4: Modern Warfare, God of War II, Halo 3, and Puzzle Quest that year.

Makes me feel all tingly just thinking about 2007 again. Simpler times.