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Unity CEO Calls Mobile Devs Who Don't Prioritize Monetization ‘Fucking Idiots’

John Ricitiello didn’t mince words when it came to developers who might not utilize Unity’s new suite of ad tech

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A gray-haired man is sitting in a white chair with his hands in the air.
Photo: Steve Jennings (Getty Images)

Speaking with PocketGamer.biz about Unity’s recent merger, CEO John Riccitiello had some harsh words for mobile game developers who don’t take monetization seriously.

Unity announced yesterday (amid layoffs, by the way) that it will merge with ad tech firm Ironsource. Among other things, this partnership will give developers who use the engine more ways to monetize and “rise above the noise,” according to Unity general manager Marc Whitten. At this point in the conversation, PocketGamer.biz characterized this focus on monetization as receiving “pushback” from some creatives, giving Riccitiello a chance to sound off.

“Ferrari and some of the other high-end car manufacturers still use clay and carving knives,” Riccitiello said about the necessity of making monetization an early priority. “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 fucking idiots.”

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Riccitiello, a veteran of the industry who previously served as EA’s chief executive, added that he sees a growing divide between game developers who “massively embrace how to figure out what makes a successful product” and those who, as in other art forms, maintain distance from the money side of things for creativity’s sake. As such, he argues that devs first and foremost need to cater to the market.

“I’ve seen great games fail because they tuned their compulsion loop to two minutes when it should have been an hour,” Riccitiello said. “Sometimes, you wouldn’t even notice the product difference between a massive success and tremendous fail, but for this tuning and what it does to the attrition rate. There isn’t a developer on the planet that wouldn’t want that knowledge.”

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Riccitiello is right, on some level. Mobile gaming is so saturated that every part of the development process needs to be on point to set yourself apart from the horde and, in rare cases, make enough money for the next project. But his comments also speak to the emptiness of the mainstream mobile market. It’s become so creatively bankrupt that someone focusing on artistry over hooking whales with an addictive gameplay loop is seen as worthy of condescension rather than admiration.

With the Ironsource merger already netting $1 billion in investments from Unity’s shareholders and Ironsource itself valued at a whopping $4.4 billion, it only makes sense that Riccitiello is willing to throw developers under the bus. Advertisements and the technology behind them, as always, are the name of the game.

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Let’s be honest: If the plebs aren’t contributing to Unity’s bottom line, what use are they to a man who’s comfortable making tens of millions of dollars a year while workers are laid off?