Unity CEO John Riccitiello steps down after pricing controversy

10 Oct 2023

John Riccitiello at Web Summit 2017. Image: Web Summit/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Riccitiello has led Unity for nearly 10 years and his departure comes after the company faced a backlash for attempting to bring in new fees.

John Riccitiello, the president, chair and CEO of Unity Technologies, is stepping down with immediate effect.

James M Whitehurst has been appointed as interim CEO, president and board member while the company searches for a new permanent CEO. Roelof Botha, the lead independent director of the board, has been appointed as chair.

While the decision to step down is immediate, Unity said Riccitiello will continue to advise the company to “ensure a smooth transition”.

Riccitiello joined the Unity board in 2013 and became CEO of the company the following year. Botha said Riccitiello stepped in to lead at a time of “significant challenges” for the company.

“Working with Unity under John’s leadership has been one of the highlights of my career,” Botha said. “John has led Unity through incredible growth over the last nearly 10 years, helping us transition from a perpetual licence to a subscription model.

“Unity would not be where it is today without the impact of his contributions.”

The sudden leadership change follows a period of controversy for Unity, after it strained relations with its customer base for trying to implement a new pricing model.

Last month, the company revealed this pay-per-download pricing scheme, which would charge game developers a fee each time their Unity Engine game was downloaded by an end user.

The backlash was immediate, with the developer community’s top complaints being that the change was announced without any discussion and the fact that it would have included retroactive fees – for game downloads prior to the new scheme being implemented.

Unity apologised for the decision and implemented adjustments to this pricing model, which is due to come into effect at the start of 2024. The adjustments were designed to appease these complaints, but it appears many developers are still unhappy with Unity for attempting this fee in the first place.

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John Riccitiello at Web Summit 2017. Image: Web Summit via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic