Last week Unity CEO and former head of Electronic Arts, John Riccitiello, called game developers who don’t think about monetization early “fucking idiots.” Now the only person feeling like an idiot seems to be him. After previously calling stories about the rogue comment “clickbait,” he’s now offered a more thorough, Notes-style screenshot apology. “I am sorry,” wrote one of the highest paid bosses in gaming. “I am listening and I will do better.”
Riccitiello, who joined the game engine company Unity in 2014, got in hot water after an especially colorful quote from an interview with PocketGamer.biz began making the rounds on social media on July 14. When asked about pushback from developers to monetizing their games early in the process, the veteran CEO said it’s only a small number who don’t operate that way. “Some of these people are my favorite people in the world to fight with – they’re the most beautiful and pure, brilliant people,” Riccitiello said. “They’re also some of the biggest fucking idiots.”
When “fucking idiots” started making waves across the internet, the Unity boss at first tried to deflect. “Clickbait,” he tweeted that night. “Out of full context. Deeply sorry if what I said offended any game dev. Absolutely love the people that make games. Creative, hard work.”
But the original context of the PocketGamer.biz interview, which was an unedited transcript, was pretty plain. Unity had just announced an unpopular merger with ad tech company IronSource, and was revealing new tools to help Unity devs get early player feedback on monetization strategies.
A host of independent developers spent last week publicly criticizing Unity while the company’s employees fumed internally about recent layoffs. “Omfg my timeline is full of Devs trying to move from Unity to other alternatives, this is a Chernobyl level meltdown,” one dev tweeted at Riccitiello after his clickbait remark. “!!Do something!!”
And so he did. Over the weekend Riccitiello posted a long screenshot apology which ended with him admitting he’d wished he’d never said the clickbait sentence in question. He also tried to distinguish between developers making art for art’s sake vs those who want to make a living off of game and in-game item sales.
“Both of these motivations are noble,” Riccitiello wrote. “If I had been smarter in choosing my words I would have said just this...we are working to provide developers with tools so they can better understand what their players think, and it is up to them to act or not, based on this feedback.”
Prior to joining Unity, Riccitiello was CEO of EA from 2007 to 2013. In 2012 the publisher released Mass Effect 3, which was criticized at the time for, among other things, monetization methods which included day-one DLC and loot boxes. That was also the first time EA was awarded “Worst Company In America” by the Consumerist. It won the award again the following year after backlash over Dead Space 3’s microtransactions, just a month after Riccitiello resigned in March 2013.