John Riccitiello has resigned as chief executive of game development tool Unity following a controversial pricing change which angered gamers and developers alike.

The firm wanted to charge studios every time a person installed a game using Unity’s code which powers thousands of modern video games.

Big developers already pay a licensing fee to use Unity in their games.

Unity said Mr Riccitiello was retiring from the firm effective immediately.

Unity’s game engine is the code behind many popular video games – including Pokemon Go, Genshin Impact and Beat Saber – and is typically used by small studios.

It is software that developers use to make a video game and combines tools which handle things like animation and audio.

It is possible to build such an engine from scratch but it is complicated, so companies often use ready-made versions to save time.

Developers like Unity, in particular, because of its wide use and ease of access for beginners.

However, plans announced in September by Mr Riccitiello to alter how the company charged developers provoked widespread anger with some threatening to stop using the technology altogether.

Gamers and fans also questioned if free-to-play games would have to change to be able to afford the new fees. And Unity was forced to evacuate its San Francisco offices following a report of a death threat made on social media.

Mr Riccitiello later told the New York Times that he had been “truly humbled” by the reaction.

However, he had clashed with the gaming community before and was forced to apologise after using crude language to describe developers who disagreed with him on monetising their games.

No reason was given for Mr Riccitiello’s abrupt departure.

He joined the company in 2013 from Electronic Arts, the publishing giant behind games such as EA Sports FC (previously known as Fifa), The Sims, and Mass Effect.

He had been EA’s chief executive since 2007 but later resigned after admitting its results would fall short of forecasts and that he was “100% accountable”.

“It’s been a privilege to lead Unity for nearly a decade and serve our employees, customers, developers and partners, all of whom have been instrumental to the company’s growth,” Mr Riccitiello said in a statement.

“I look forward to supporting Unity through this transition and following the company’s future success.”

Mr Riccitiello took Unity public in September 2020 in a stock market flotation that valued the business at $13.6bn (£11.1bn). Its share price peaked at nearly $200 over a year later but has since fallen and now trades at $29.70 each.

While Unity has been growing its revenue, which reached $553m in the three months to 30 June, it remains loss-making. Its most recent quarterly results show a pre-tax loss of $188.5m.

He will be replaced as interim chief executive by James Whitehurst, who previously held an executive position at IBM.


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