Unity CEO John Riccitiello Steps Down, Effective Immediately

Unity CEO John Riccitiello Steps Down, Effective Immediately

John Riccitiello will step down from his role as CEO of Unity, effective immediately, following weeks of public outcry related to announced changes to the company’s game engine pricing. The controversy surrounding the planned pricing model was not mentioned as a reason for his departure from the company, but given the amount of noise about Unity’s proposed changes in recent weeks, it’s likely to have been a contributing factor.

The Unity board of directors shared a statement announcing Riccitiello’s departure, and also confirmed that James M. Whitehurst will be the Interim Chief Executive Officer, President, and board member until Unity “[identifies] a permanent CEO.” In order to “ensure a smooth transition,” Riccitiello will continue to advise Unity.

The statement thanked Riccitiello for his work since joining the Unity board over ten years ago, and said at the time he stepped in to lead the company in 2014, Unity “faced significant challenges. Roelof Botha, the newly–appointed Chairman of the board, said: “John has led Unity through incredible growth over the last nearly 10 years, helping us transition from a perpetual license to a subscription model, enabling developers to monetise, building other game services to serve our creator community, leading us through an IPO and positioning us as a pioneer in the developer community. Unity would not be where it is today without the impact of his contributions.”

Riccitiello himself thanked Unity for his time at the company as well. “It’s been a privilege to lead Unity for nearly a decade and serve our employees, customers, developers and partners, all of whom have been instrumental to the Company’s growth,” he said, “I look forward to supporting Unity through this transition and following the Company’s future success.”

Whitehurst said he anticipated a “seamless transition” as Riccitiello steps down, with Unity confirming the company’s “guidance” for the next financial quarter would not be changing in light of the leadership change.

Unity came under fire in September when it announced plans to implement a runtime fee from January 1, 2024. The fee would have seen developers charged for individual game installs above a certain threshold. At the time, Unity said the runtime fee would be applied retroactively to games that met the revenue and install thresholds. This announcement led to an overwhelmingly negative response from the game development community around the globe, given the fee would make using Unity impossible for smaller studios who could not afford to retroactively shell out for additional fees. Initially, this also appeared to encompass players who uninstalled and re-installled a game.

Unity quickly walked back a majority of the policy, including its retroactive nature, and apologised for announcing such massive changes with minimal consultation. While the changes did alleviate some concerns for game developers, industry goodwill with Unity remains low — not helped by reports that John Riccitiello sold around 2,000 shares in the company the week prior to the runtime fee announcement.

Whether this changing of the guard is the shot in the arm Unity needs to pick up the pieces after a frankly pretty horrific month is up for debate. At the very least it looks like they’re hustling to try to recapture the trust of a pretty disgruntled developer community right now.

Lead Image Credit: Unity

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