Unity CEO and president John Riccitiello is out in the wake of the reveal of the company’s controversial pay-per-install model.

Game development platform Unity has today announced that its CEO and president, John Riccitiello will retire as president of the company. The news comes as part of a release on businesswire detailing the change in leadership and search for a new top executive for the company.

Riccitiello held the positions of president, CEO, chairman, and was a member of the company’s board of directors. Effective immediately, he steps down from all these roles. In the interim, James M. Whitehurst has been appointed CEO, president, and a member of the board. Roelof Botha, lead independent director of the Unity board, has been appointed chairman. The company’s board will begin a search for a new permanent CEO.

The resignation comes in the wake of Unity’s controversial announcements that it would be switching to a pay-per-install model for developers in January 2024. This announcement caused uproar among Unity developers, who started a mass exodus from the platform. The company issued an apology in the weeks following the announcement, but hasn’t revised its policy. 

John Riccitiello out as Unity CEO

(Image via Unity)
(Image via Unity)

Riccitiello leaves behind a complicated legacy. A seasoned games industry executive, Riccitiello was the CEO of Electronic Arts in 2008 when the company first introduced loot boxes into the games sporting titles, such as Madden, and FIFA. 

In 2011 EA shareholders meeting, Riccitiello notoriously suggested players be charged for bullets while playing Battlefield: “When you are six hours into playing Battlefield and you run out of ammo in your clip and we ask you for a dollar to reload, you’re really not that price sensitive at that point in time.” 

Riccitiello’s time at EA partially inspired the villain of Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes, Damon Riccitiello. No More Heroes director Goichi Suda previously worked at EA under Riccitiello. In the story of Travis Strikes Again, Suda’s self-insert character, a game developer called Doctor Juvenile, is tricked and exploited by Damon Riccitiello.

John Riccitiello inspired the character of Damon Riccitiello, a villain in Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes, and No More Heroes 3 (Image via Grasshopper Manufacture)
John Riccitiello inspired the character of Damon Riccitiello, a villain in Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes, and No More Heroes 3 (Image via Grasshopper Manufacture)

In 2022, while acting as CEO of Unity, Riccitiello implied in an interview with pocketgame.biz that developers who shun monetization are “f*cking idiots” in a quote often taken out of context. Replying to a question about developers pushing back on monetization early in the process of game development, Riccitiello said: “Ferrari and some of the other high-end car manufacturers still use clay and carving knives. It’s a very small portion of the gaming industry that works that way, and some of these people are my favorite people in the world to fight with – they’re the most beautiful and pure, brilliant people. They’re also some of the biggest f*cking idiots.

Riccitiello’s history of bullish monetization strategies made him somewhat of the perfect scapegoat for Unity in the wake of the controversy. Whether his departure leads to a change in policy remains to be seen.

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