back to article Unity CEO 'retires' in the wake of fee fiasco

Unity has announced the immediate retirement of president, CEO, chair, and board member John Riccitiello. The boss's departure follows a botched attempt to charge developers per-install fees for games created with Unity's tools – a step that effectively amounted to charging royalties on each sale of a game. Unity had …

  1. krakead
    Childcatcher

    Shame it's not a Blade Runner-style retirement. However, Riccitiello is one of the corporate undead, so he'll swoop back to the nest for a while, but then be out looking for another victim after not very long at all.

    1. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

      The problem why Mr R and people like him exist is because of the unhealthy obsession of American society and media in elevating leadership to god like status.

      Giving so much attention to so few never goes well, in business or in democracy or humanity, the Unity story is a case in point.

      1. probgoblin

        Well, part of it the c-suite class' ego. The other part of it is that it allows the overall organization to anthropomorphize decisions. This was something that Unity knew would be both unpopular and potentially insanely lucrative. If it worked, Riccitiello gets the credit. If it failed, as it did, he takes the fall as an apology while the company's board figures out another way to extract additional value.

        Everyone* wins!

        *Except the losers.

        1. Michael Strorm Silver badge
          Trollface

          Everyone* wins!

          *Except the losers.

          Every loser wins... once the dream begins.

          1. David 132 Silver badge
            Happy

            Aaaaaaaaargh bad 80s flashback alert

            Nick Berry, deelyboppers, Kia-Ora "orange" "juice"... aaargh you bastard! :)

            "Hold a chicken in the air, stick a deckchair up your nose..."

            1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

              Even more Ahhhhh.

              Immediately start remembering the Spitting Image skit on all of bad holiday songs. Now can't get it out of my mind. Bastard!

              Maybe I can displace it with Agadoo.

              Nooooo (too late).

              1. Michael Strorm Silver badge

                > Immediately start remembering the Spitting Image skit on all of bad holiday songs.

                That is ( as far as I'm aware) where The Chicken Song- and the line quoted from it- came from in the first place! It was released as a single, got to number 1, and I knew all the words as a kid. :-)

                Ironically, the song it most obviously parodied was... Agadoo.

                1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

                  Irony much?

        2. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

          > If it worked, Riccitiello gets the credit. If it failed, as it did, he takes the fall as an apology while the company's board figures out another way to extract additional value.

          The same board that picked this idiot in the first place ?

          Bravo..maybe they should get kicked themselves for being blind - they are part of the problem, the entire concept and its mechanism is a failure here and basically everywhere.

    2. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
      Terminator

      Retirement

      I was thinking exactly the same thing. In the source novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the primary distinguishing characteristic between replicants and humans is a lack of empathy and compassion, which was a commentary, in part, on the state of society and how we elevate sociopaths to positions of influence and power. Whether "retirement," as practiced in the book and movie, is suitable for such individuals is left as a thought exercise for the reader.

  2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Promise

    promised never to do such a thing

    Usually means the entity is actually entertaining such a thing, but doesn't have guts to do it yet.

    If company says e.g. they'll do no evil, then be assured they will do evil at some point in the future, as it's on their mind.

    1. David 132 Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Promise

      "The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons" - to quote Ralph Waldo Emerson.

      In other words, a properly decent person or company wouldn't need to say things like "do no evil" or "we promise never to do X", because it would go without saying.

      It's like hiring a baby-sitter who makes a point, unasked, of promising you she's not a murderer. Why, isn't that reassuring?

      1. tatatata

        Re: Promise

        Obligatory XKCD: https://xkcd.com/463/

        1. David 132 Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Promise

          Been reading XKCD too long. I knew which one that would be before I even opened the link!

        2. jgard

          Re: In the short term, it'll increase pass rates. In the long term, it'll make for a better exam.

          As someone who used to work at Diebold I can indeed confirm that they are, or at least were, doing it wrong. For a company that flogs ATMs (and used to sell voting machines) their approach to security was erm... sub optimal! In my long experience, they are rivalled only by the NHS in terms of their terrifyingly bad approach to 'security'. Some of the things I saw there would make your hair curl, one of the best was when I came across a private signing certificate - the cert that was used to create other certificates that give you a cast iron guarantee that an ATM is definitely a Diebold ATM - in some production ATM source code. For those who aren't up to speed on these things, Its hard to state how daft and reckless this is. It's one of the stupidest things you can do in terms of security. Standard practice is to keep these certs on offline machines locked in a safe, or in hardware security modules. This cert gave anybody the ability to prove their computer was a Diebold ATM.

          The worst bit was that the person who put it there knew it was bad, because they left a comment saying something like: '//todo it's bit naughty this, need to move it really when I get the time...'. Sheesh!

      2. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

        Re: Promise

        Of course the more anyone or anything claims anything you can be sure they are the opposite.

        Examples:

        Politicians who are anti-gay

        American Freedom

        Countries with the name Democratic in the name.

        Google's motto.

        1. Someone Else Silver badge

          Re: Promise

          The name of any PAC...

        2. Dave Taflin

          Re: Promise

          I wish I could properly attribute this, but some commentator on the intertubes once observed that the longer the country name, the more oppressive its regime. Thus, The Free, Fair, Democratic and Totally Awesome Republic of Somewhere would be a country to avoid like the plague.

          1. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

            Re: Promise

            Not quite, here are some long names, but they dont actually claim anything about freedom or greatness.

            Commonwealth of Australia

            United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

        3. edjimf

          Re: Promise

          Any product that needs to include "Quality" on its packaging will be shoddy/revolting or both.

          1. David 132 Silver badge

            Re: Promise

            Respectfully, Quality Street chocolates aren’t bad at all :)

            1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

              Re: Promise re. re Quality Street

              That certainly used to be the case. Maybe not so much now they are racing to the bottom with Cadbury to see who can produce tubs for Christmas more cheaply.

              1. David 132 Silver badge

                Re: Promise re. re Quality Street

                Fair enough. I have been out of the UK for a while now. I’m old enough to remember when Easter eggs actually had the chocolates sealed inside the chocolate egg shell, and not bagged separately in the box in a ghastly “assemble it yourself” fashion :)

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: "Quality Street chocolates aren’t bad at all :)"

              Respectfully, have you actually tried Quality Street in recent years (e.g. since Nestle took over Rowntree Mackintosh)?

              [edit: many thanks to Peter Gathercole who got there before I did :)]

      3. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
        Alert

        Re: Promise

        Similarly, anyone who describes himself as a "Christian businessman" is the sort of person from whom you should guard your wallet.

        1. GraXXoR

          Re: Promise

          And other parts of your body in close proximity to said wallet.

    2. Jon 37

      Re: Promise

      Some programming tools charge for the runtime, and that can be a completely reasonable thing to do.

      However, developers hate it. They would much rather pay for the tools and have a royalty free runtime. It avoids a whole bunch of complexity, regarding counting installations and paying the vendor. It also avoids the risk that the vendor will increase the runtime price.

      So it's understandable that they promised never to charge for the runtime. It was a major feature.

      One thing developers hate more than paid runtimes, are tool vendors who try to change the deal after the developer has invested a huge amount of time and money building programs with their tool.

    3. Evil Scot
      Joke

      Re: Promise

      Anyone recommend a good search engine to identify the "Do No Evil" company.

      1. David 132 Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Promise

        "Hey Bing, which company has the motto 'Do No Evil'?"

        ...

        "You asked for a list of local chiropodists in Little Rock Arkansas. Here's a link to the collected writings of Kevin Keegan. By the way, would you like to switch to using Edge?"

        1. Tommy G1

          Re: Promise

          It's a long time since I've actually laughed out loud at a comment :-)

  3. G40

    Greed and the not-so great

    Good riddance. How foolish and ignorant can you be?

  4. ragnar

    > Unity's share price, which was $38.97 before it changed pricing plans, ... , bounced from $29.56 to $30.11 in after-the-bell trading – suggesting investors are quite happy with the changes.

    Just as a general reporting note, I don't think we can draw any strong conclusions about investor sentiment from a change in the share price of <2%. It's hardly moved, which suggests indifference.

    1. StrangerHereMyself Silver badge

      It was the tanking of the share price that did him in!!

      1. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

        thts precisely the problem. Attributing EVERYTHING to one person who actually contributed the least. THere are a lot of engineers at Unity and they are the ones who made the product. Allowing and paying someone a lot fo making stupid social media announcements is a tax.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      It depends on the timing, which is one reason they were talking about trading outside of normal market hours. Swings like that during a day can represent people making larger decisions and a stock getting swept up, but movements when the markets are closed tend to be smaller because fewer people are trading it. A 2% move is not a large increase, but it could still mean something unless there was some other news at the time affecting the company. We could compare it against comparable businesses' after-hours activity, but it probably means at least some investors think it's a good thing.

  5. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Happy

    Off to join

    Gerald Ratner then?

    1. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

      Re: Off to join

      Gerald Ratner wasn't that stupid. Unity doubled down on their new idea *twice* before backing off.

      They're taking a very large risk that people won't now move to Unreal or Godot.

  6. aerogems Silver badge
    Boffin

    If I Were A Game Dev

    This would be part of the minimum requirements for me to even consider staying with Unity. A complete walk back of the proposed changes -- I could grudgingly accept it if they wanted to apply it starting with the next major version of the engine, but it would only apply to that version and subsequent ones -- and then the total departure of the person responsible for the proposed change. Not just hanging around in some other title (like Board Chair -- which is a conflict of interest anyway and shouldn't be allowed) or maybe they go on sabbatical for a bit... gone. Ideally all their shares are cashed out along the way.

    Even then, I'd probably be keeping my eye on other game engines and start developing future projects in a way that would make moving to a new game engine as easy as possible for as long as possible. There's obviously a point of no return, but trying to make sure you could switch with as little pain as possible up to that point. And there's no guarantee I'd stay with Unity, because maybe I'd find one of the other alternatives is better for my projects.

    1. sabroni Silver badge

      Re: If I Were A Game Dev

      You're just the kind of dev they like.

      They've proved that they'll try and shaft you as soon as they can get away with it.

      Your answer is to give them another go but give yourself loads more work by abstracting their api behind a shim so you aren't tied to it.

      Can you switch the game engine once your game is out, if they apply their fees retroactively like they were talking about?

  7. AdamWill

    Man, that guy retired so hard, he bounced.

  8. sarusa Silver badge
    Devil

    Doesn't really matter

    Unity took tons of dirty venture capital money and now they have to return value on that, new CEO or not.

    Fabermetrics at Ars made a really great comment about this, so let me just quote that:

    > This is less a CEO issue and more a "must pursue eternal exponential quarterly revenue growth" mindset issue. Once a company starts making these moves, they will continue, no matter what. Expect microtransactions for lines of code written in unity, frames rendered, load time booster packs, the most scummy monetization ever. The MBAs running these places are programmed from birth to do this. You can rotate the exec board every month for a decade and they'll still push it. Its a dead company, time for everyone to move on.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Doesn't really matter

      Dead? Not necessarily, it's just very few companies in tech rise back after a trip over a waterfall.

      A few years will show how bad the damage is, and they will probably either rebound or die a slow agonizing death trying to claw back a fraction of their original market share going forward. But the companies that already rage quit aren't likely coming back, and the community will keep bringing this up in the endless flame wars over which engine is the best. So even if they survive the scars will likely stay on them. So if Unity can't come back with some killer features, and their competition doesn't make their own stumbles, the herd will slowly drift away from them.

  9. steviebuk Silver badge

    John Riccitiello

    Haas School of Business clearly doesn't teach you "Don't piss off gamers"

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's the chapter after the next one? Or does the book end.

    The a look at operating margin over the last few year: Macrotrends - Unity Software Operating Margin 2019-2023 | U. It is hovering around minus 50% operating margin, even though revenues are increasing. With todays high interest rates, investors are likely to bail. There is nothing inherently wrong with a sustainable economic model that provides job and products or services, it's all how you go about it.

    The best bakeries around where i live are all co-ops, worker owned and operated, and they wouldn't be there without making a profit. (One did fold).

    1. steviebuk Silver badge

      Re: What's the chapter after the next one? Or does the book end.

      Same with John Lewis and Waitrose the current CEO is ruining the company. She doesn't appear to understand it made it a success because all the staff own a part of the company. More hours you did, the bigger your bonus was each year. Stacking shelfs was actual worth it. Now she's looking to remove this its gonna all go to shit.

  11. Binraider Silver badge

    While I obviously do not approve of the choices made; leaving the company running at a loss isn't really an option either. Unless it is some subsidiary being abused to gain tax advantages for a parent corporation.

    Enough titles (were) made in Unity for developers to suck up a future licensing rise; and/or having built the tooling, a downsizing of the dev team responsible to support-only; and slashing of inferior manglement staff on $ludicrous bonuses.

    The IPO and dumping a load of liability on the business to pay shareholders was, let's be honest, a mistake; if the objective was the continuity of Unity as a business (which it wasn't).

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