In a surprising announcement, Unity CEO John Riccitiello has announced his retirement from the company with immediate effect. This news comes shortly after Unity faced backlash for its plans to introduce a controversial install fee for developers.
As part of his retirement, Riccitiello will step down from his roles as CEO, president, and a member of the board of directors. Unity has named James M. Whitehurst as the interim CEO while the board searches for a permanent replacement. Whitehurst brings with him a wealth of experience, having served as president at IBM from 2008 to 2020 and as a senior advisor in 2021 and 2022.
Riccitiello expressed his gratitude and said, “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.” Riccitiello took on the role of CEO at Unity in 2014 following his tenure as CEO at EA.
On the other hand, Whitehurst shared his excitement about joining Unity in the interim role. He said, “I am honored to join Unity as Interim CEO and President at this important time in its evolution. With the Company’s experienced leadership and passionate employees, I am confident that Unity is well-positioned to continue enhancing its platform, strengthening its community, and focusing on its growth and profitability goals.”
Unity also announced that it will release its third-quarter financial results on November 9, after the market closes. A webcast will follow at 2 p.m. PT/5 p.m. ET to provide further insights.
Last month, Unity faced significant backlash when it announced its plans to introduce a new Runtime Fee. This fee imposed an additional cost on developers of Unity-developed games after their titles reached a certain number of installations. This decision sparked outrage within the industry.
Unity is widely used by indie developers, many of whom publicly criticized the new fee. Some studios even threatened to remove their games from sale once the Runtime Fee took effect, while others planned to switch to a different game engine for their ongoing projects. The controversy escalated to the point where Unity received death threats, leading to temporary closure of its offices.
Developers were primarily upset about the sudden introduction of an additional financial burden on successful titles, including games released years ago. They also expressed frustration with Unity’s lack of clarity and transparency in its initial communication, particularly regarding the collection of install data and potential violations of the engine’s original Terms of Service agreement.
In response to the backlash, Unity issued an open letter apologizing for the controversy. The company promised to make adjustments to its policy and provided clarification on some of the more confusing aspects. While this apology somewhat pacified the anger, many developers stated that their trust in Unity had been severely damaged. Some even called for Riccitiello’s resignation, a request that has now been fulfilled.
The departure of Riccitiello raises questions about the future relationship between Unity and its clients. Time will tell if this leadership change will be enough to rebuild the trust that has been lost.