Unity CEO Stepping Down After Major Controversy


Unity Technologies has announced that John Riccitiello, the president, CEO, and chairman of the game engine firm, has stepped down from most of his duties effective immediately. His step-down comes not long after Unity made controversial pricing changes that upset many game developers. Unity later walked back some of the changes.

Riccitiello, the former CEO of Electronic Arts, will be replaced by James M. Whitehurst, who steps in as interim CEO. Unity is now conducting a "comprehensive search" to find a permanent CEO to lead the company into the future. Whitehurst is the former president of IBM.

Riccitiello become Unity's CEO in 2014. The company went public with an IPO in 2020, and since then, the company's share price has cratered. He will stay aboard in an advisory role for the time being during the transition process.

"I look forward to supporting Unity through this transition and following the company's future success," Riccitiello said in a statement.

Whitehurst will receive a base salary of $1.12 million and an award of 200,000 stock options as part of his role as interim CEO. Riccitiello, meanwhile, was offered a bonus on his way out. He was offered an extended exercise period of five years to exercise any of his vested equity in Unity. The company's chairman of the board, Roelof Botha, said Riccitiello was awarded this "for all that you have done for Unity..." However, Riccitiello declined the exercise extension.

Riccitiello will continue to earn his standard salary during the transition.

In September, Unity announced a new "runtime fee" that would be based upon the number of times a game made with Unity was installed. Following a wave of criticism, Unity walked back some of the new policies and some developers got back on board, while others remained skeptical and critical. Unity claims its engine powers about half of every video game, so any business move the company makes tends to generate a lot of buzz.

In 2022, Riccitiello called developers who did not put microtransactions in their games "f**king idiots." He later apologized.