While the world is focused on our presidential slates poised to shatter glass ceilings over race or gender, Larry Probst just crashed through the one cantilevered over video game executives. It's not as historic as Jackie Robinson, or Dick Parsons, but it is a major leap for our industry. I wrote about mainstream perceptions of our industry in a post about similarities between porn and games in a post heavily edited and improved by N'Gai Croal. I left out the part about executives. Until yesterday's announcement of Larry Probst's new position as Chairman of the Board of the United States Olympic Committee, game executives were mentioned in the same breadth as "real executives." Yesterday, Larry Probst's announcement treated him as the veteran executive he is.
"There wasn't any debate at the board meeting," Ueberroth said of the unanimous vote that ended in Probst getting a four-year term.
The 58-year-old Probst will be involved in the bid, but also was tabbed because of his business acumen. He has worked at Electronic Arts, a company that includes EA Sports, since 1984. Annual revenues at the company grew from $175 million to $3 billion over the 16 years during which he served as CEO. Last year, he retired that post and became chairman of the board.
"The EA Sports brand is one of the most recognized brands in the video games industry," Probst said. "I've been doing that for 15-plus years. As a consequence of that, I've had a lot of exposure to commissioners, leaders in sports."
This is great news for everyone on the business side of the business. In the real world, executives move among companies all the time. Games are a black hole. The CEO of a video game publisher has fewer career options than the junior manager of Tampax marketing at Proctor and Gamble. When executive searches are conducted, "real companies" look for the P&G guy or the Unilever woman. Clorox, Pepsi, Coke, all good. Games, don't even think about it. Each inter company move leads to a promotion and a raise. The door to the world of executive opportunity has traditionally been closed to game executives. Let's hope the guy who oversaw the growth and retention of the lion's share of the video game business kicks some ass on the USOC and teaches the world what we have to offer.