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Last month, game developers lost it over Unity’s plans to implement an install-based “runtime fee.” Now, Unity’s CEO John Riccitiello is stepping down.
The game engine firm announced that Riccitiello—who is 65—is retiring and leaving the company, effective immediately. He will also leave his position as a member of Unity’s Board of Directors, but will take on an advisory role as part of the transition, according to the release.
James Whitehurst is stepping into the CEO and President roles on an interim basis and will also take a spot on Unity’s board.
“I am confident that Unity is well-positioned to continue enhancing its platform, strengthening its community of customers, developers, and partners, and focusing on its growth and profitability goals,” said Whitehurst in a statement.
Roelof Botha is stepping into the Chairman role at Unity.
“John has led Unity through incredible growth over the last nearly 10 years, helping us transition from a perpetual license to a subscription model, enabling developers to monetize, building other game services to serve our creator community, leading us through an IPO and positioning us as a pioneer in the developer community,” Botha said in a statement.
Unity’s board is actively searching for a permanent replacement to fill Riccitiello’s positions. Riccitiello became a Unity board member a decade ago back in 2013 and became its CEO in 2014. He previously served as CEO, COO, and president of prominent video game publisher Electronic Arts.
While Unity’s new leadership remains optimistic, news of Riccitiello’s departure comes just weeks after the gaming tech company faced massive controversy after it announced a new “Unity Runtime Fee” for developers that is based on developer revenue and the number of installs—as opposed to a revenue-sharing model.
About a week later, Unity walked back some of its plans for the new fee, set to launch in 2024—but hasn’t scrapped it entirely.
Riccitiello’s departure may be unsurprising to some in the gaming industry who have been calling for the executive to step down for years. Game World Observer reported last year that game developerss demanded that Riccitiello step down as CEO after the executive called gamemakers who don’t understand the importance of monetization “the biggest fucking idiots.”
After the runtime fee was announced last month, multiple Change.org petitions popped up calling for Unity to remove Riccitiello from his position as CEO. While those petitions only received about 90 signatures, numerous Reddit posts also called for his removal.