Unity CEO John Riccitiello steps down amid runtime fee controversy


  • Unity CEO John Riccitiello has announced his retirement amid controversies.
  • Runtime fee issue and the call for change at the firm.

In a surprising turn of events, Unity CEO John Riccitiello has announced his retirement, leaving the game engine firm with immediate effect. This move comes on the heels of Unity’s recent controversy surrounding its plans to introduce an install-based “runtime fee” that had riled up game developers. Riccitiello, who is 65 years old, will not only step down from his CEO position but also vacate his role as a member of Unity’s Board of Directors.

James Whitehurst takes over as interim Unity CEO

According to the statement, he will continue to provide advisory support during the transition period, as disclosed in Unity’s official statement. Taking the helm on an interim basis is James Whitehurst, who assumes the roles of Unity CEO and President. Whitehurst will also join Unity’s board. In a statement, he expressed confidence in Unity’s future, stating his level of confidence that the firm is well placed to continue to develop its platform among other things. He also believes that the firm will strengthen its community of customers, developers, and partners, and focus on its growth and profitability goals.

Roelof Botha will step into the role of Chairman at Unity. Botha acknowledged the significant contributions of the Unity CEO, noting how he led Unity through a period of remarkable growth, including the transition from a perpetual license model to a subscription-based one. Under Riccitiello’s leadership, Unity expanded its offerings, developed game services, conducted a successful IPO, and established itself as a pioneer in the developer community. Unity’s board is actively engaged in the search for a permanent replacement to fill the positions vacated by Riccitiello.

Runtime fee issue and the fall for change at the firm

John Riccitiello’s journey with Unity began when he became a board member in 2013, and he assumed the role of CEO in 2014. Before his tenure at Unity, he held significant positions at Electronic Arts, a prominent video game publisher, where he served as CEO, COO, and president. The departure of John Riccitiello follows a period of turmoil for Unity, particularly in the wake of the company’s announcement of a new “Unity Runtime Fee” for developers. This fee structure, based on developer revenue and the number of installations, marked a significant departure from the previous revenue-sharing model.

Unity later revised its plans for the new fee, which was slated to launch in 2024, though it has not been entirely scrapped. Riccitiello’s exit may not come as a surprise to some industry insiders who have been advocating for his departure for some time. Last year, Game World Observer reported that game developers had called for Riccitiello’s resignation as CEO, following controversial comments where he referred to game makers who didn’t understand the importance of monetization in rather harsh terms.

Unity’s decision to introduce the runtime fee had sparked outrage within the gaming community, leading to the creation of multiple Change.org petitions calling for Riccitiello’s removal as Unity CEO. Although these petitions garnered only around 90 signatures, discussions on Reddit also echoed the sentiment, with numerous posts calling for his ousting. As Unity navigates this period of leadership transition, it remains to be seen how the company will address the concerns raised by game developers and the broader gaming industry.

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Owotunse Adebayo

Adebayo loves to keep tab of exciting projects in the blockchain space. He is a seasoned writer who has written tons of articles about cryptocurrencies and blockchain.

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