Unity CEO John Riccitiello resigns following runtime fee controversy

Posted on October 11, 2023

John Riccitiello, the CEO of Unity, has resigned effective immediately from his role following the vastly unpopular and hastily retracted announcement of a fee for developers for every time their games are downloaded. It will remain to be seen if a change in leadership will be enough to mend the fractured relationship between Unity and the game development industry.

As per the official announcement, “John Riccitiello will retire as President, Chief Executive Officer, Chairman and a member of the Company’s Board of Directors, effective immediately“. James M. Whitehurst has been appointed Interim Chief Executive Officer, President and a member of the Board while a formal replacement is confirmed. The announcement makes no mention of the runtime fee fiasco which prompted this resignation, although Unity Create’s leader, Marc Whitten, has already apologised for it elsewhere.

As for whether a new face at the company’s helm will be enough to reverse Unity’s fortunes, that is yet unclear. The general consensus among many indie developers impacted by these changes is that regardless of who is in charge, the trust between the developers and Unity has been irreparably damaged, according to a series of interview with The Verge. “Is it good that Riccitiello is leaving? Yes,” said Brandon Sheffield, director of Necrosoft Games. “But do I trust that Unity will never do another rug-pull on pricing? No.” In addition, Xalavier Nelson Jr., head of El Paso Elsewhere developer Strange Scaffold, noted that “Whatever failings Unity’s former CEO might’ve had, he answers to a board and shareholders who motivate, dictate, and authorise his actions — and they are still around in his absence. Anyone celebrating the fact that Riccitello stepped down as an indicator of the company’s future actions still has to reckon with that.

The effect of the backlash against Unity’s recent announcement has been swift and impressive. With many developers now seeking to use other popular game engines following the many reversals in Unity’s policies, the company has a lot of goodwill to win back. Its third-quarter results will be released early next month, which will give the new CEO an opportunity to address the mass exodus and attempt to repair the company’s tattered reputation.