Unity cancels town hall over reported death threats

The Unity pricing debacle has taken an unfortunate, dangerous turn. In a new report from Bloomberg, the company has reportedly canceled a town hall meeting due to what the publication called credible death threats. According to Bloomberg, Unity CEO John Riccitiello was set to address employees Thursday morning, but the companywide meeting was canceled and two of Unity’s offices were closed because of the alleged threats.

Earlier this week, Unity, makers of a video game engine popular among indie developers, announced that it was making changes to its pricing model. In addition to charging yearly subscription fees, Unity is planning to implement a pay-per-install pricing scheme, charging developers each time a game is installed on a device once that game has met specific download and revenue thresholds.

The news was met with a sizable backlash. Indie developers protested in droves, saying the changes would hurt their already small profit margins while also damaging their trust because the policy shifts were announced with little clarity or warning. Some have threatened to never use Unity again and are encouraging players to pay for but not download their games to avoid incurring the new fees.

Riccitiello himself became a central figure of the controversy as some see him as the driving force behind the new model. He was the CEO of Electronic Arts when the controversial loot box monetization was added to FIFA 09. He made news when he called developers “fucking idiots” over some developers’ reluctance to introduce monetization schemes earlier in the development process. There’s also the infamous clip of Riccitiello talking during a shareholder call about charging Battlefield players a dollar to reload their guns. The Unity CEO also raised eyebrows this week when it was reported that he sold off 2,000 Unity shares right before the company announced this news — with the stock price seeing a significant drop thereafter.

Unity has tweeted some clarifications about the new pricing structure and walked back several unpopular tenants. Developers will now no longer be charged for demos or game re-installs but will be charged for installs on multiple devices. There will be programs in place to protect against fraud or malicious activity, and games included in charity bundles will not be subject to fees. Unity also stated that it only expects 10 percent of its users to be affected by these changes, targeting what it said are users who have found success at scale.


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