Wedbush securities analyst Michael Pachter claims that former Xbox boss and Zynga's new CEO Don Mattrick was the most likely candidate to replace John Riccitiello as EA's chief executive.
Mattrick joined social games company Zynga in a surprise defection yesterday that has commentators scrambling to figure out what it means for the companies.
The immediate effect has been a stock-market rally for Zynga and a corresponding dive for Microsoft, but Pachter says Microsoft isn't the only company to take the news on the nose.
The analyst told GamesIndustry International that Mattrick was the frontrunner for the EA job, and the decision to go with Zynga over a company many see as a safer option is indeed a shock.
"EA presents a different challenge from Zynga, with over 4x the revenue and significantly higher profitability, and we think that the company is largely on the right track already,” explained Pachter.
“We were surprised that Mr. Mattrick took the Zynga job... we believed that the larger company presented a more prestigious opportunity.”
Wedbush claims this means that EA will be forced to look at internal candidates to replace the departed Riccitiello.
"Now that Mr. Mattrick has taken the job at Zynga, EA is back to square one in its search,” said Pachter.
“We believe that the company will find few qualified candidates outside the company, and will ultimately choose between the top two internal candidates, COO Peter Moore and EVP Frank Gibeau. Both men are capable of running EA, in our opinion, and investors would respond favorably to either being appointed."
While EA searches for a permanent replacement, executive chairman Larry Probst will act as CEO.
Microsoft is in a similar position, with the Xbox division temporarily reporting to company headman Steve Ballmer.