John Riccitiello, the President and CEO of UNITY, has announced his immediate retirement from the company, along with his positions as chairman and board member. James Whitehurst has been appointed as the interim CEO. Unity has stated that John Riccitiello will provide guidance during the transition as the company initiates a comprehensive search for a new CEO.
Riccitiello’s abrupt retirement follows Unity’s controversial decision to modify its fee structure for its cross-platform game engine. This change would have introduced a “runtime fee,” charging developers 20 cents each time a player installed a game after it reached 200,000 downloads and $200,000 in revenue. This change would have also applied retroactively, affecting developers with ongoing or already released games. This decision led to widespread backlash from developers, with some even demanding John Riccitiello’s resignation. Unity eventually reversed some of these changes, but the damage to the company’s reputation remained significant.
Privilege to have led Unity for nearly a decade
For some developers, Unity’s credibility has been severely damaged, and they question the company’s commitment to its promises and updates that benefit PC and console developers. Brandon Sheffield, the founder of game developer Microsoft, expressed skepticism, stating that Unity had done irreparable harm to its brand in the eyes of game developers.
In a brief statement within the company’s press release, John Riccitiello, who had been with Unity since 2013 as a board member and assumed a leadership role in 2014, described it as a privilege to have led Unity for nearly a decade and to have served its employees, customers, developers, and partners, all of whom played a crucial role in the company’s growth.
It’s worth noting that John Riccitiello had previously made controversial statements about monetization in game development, including apologizing for referring to developers as “some of the biggest idiots” in response to criticism regarding early monetization in the development process.
Unity recently faced backlash from many of its loyal game developers
In an effort to prevent a stock market panic, Unity has announced that it is reiterating its earlier provided guidance for its fiscal third-quarter financial results, scheduled to be disclosed on November 9.
Roelof Botha, who serves as the lead independent director on the Unity board, has been named as the new chairman. Unity has stated that Riccitiello will remain involved in an advisory capacity to facilitate a seamless transition. This development doesn’t come as a surprise, considering that Unity recently faced backlash from many of its loyal game developers due to a pricing adjustment based on download numbers, which was later rescinded following a significant outcry.