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Unity founder steps down to let ex-EA CEO John Riccitiello take over — here’s why

Unity founder steps down to let ex-EA CEO John Riccitiello take over — here’s why

Former Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello takes over at Unity

Former Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello takes over at Unity

Above: John Riccitiello, former CEO of EA, is now the head of Unity.

Image Credit: Michael O’Donnell/VentureBeat

Things are going down at one of the biggest game-development technology companies.

Unity chief executive officer David Helgason is stepping aside to let John Riccitiello take over that job. Unity is a technology company that makes game-creation tools for developers.

“[Riccitiello] is the right person to help guide the company to the mission that we set out for ourselves over a decade ago: democratize game development,” Helgason wrote on the Unity blog.

With Riccitiello taking over the top job at Unity, Helgason announced that he’s going to get back to what he enjoys doing.

“I will be heavily involved in the company’s direction,” Helgason wrote. “And I will focus my efforts on finding the best ways to serve all of you amazing developers, all while working with some insanely talented people here at Unity.”

This comes a few weeks after widely reported rumors that Unity was looking for a buyer. Companies like Google were mentioned as potentially considering acquiring the technology company. Since those rumors surfaced, Unity has reportedly decided not to sell.

Helgason founded Unity Technologies in 2004 along with his partners Nicholas Francis and Joachim Ante. They started the company as a game developer, but the first game from Unity, GooBall, was a failure. But the team came to a realization during development that game creators had a great need for easy-to-use engines and tools. That led Helgason and the rest of Unity to shift its resources toward making the Unity game-development software kit.

While Epic Games captured a ton of business and made a lot of money with its Unreal Engine during the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 era of consoles, Unity separated itself by targeting independent developers. Major companies like Electronic Arts used Unreal to build their games. Meanwhile, estimates suggest that more than half of all developers working on mobile games now use Unity.

By targeting smaller teams, Unity positioned itself well for the current generation of console hardware. Fewer publishers are interested in licensing technology. Today, EA, Bethesda, and some other big game houses have switched all of their internal development to their own proprietary engines. This has Epic Games now looking to target the indie scene, which Unity has largely dominated in recent years.

Today, Unity is very large.

“There are all kinds of ways to measure our business,” Helgason told GamesBeat in May. “We have a tool that can develop for pretty much every platform that matters, and some that don’t matter to everyone. In the last month, 630,000 developers used our platform to develop for something like 9 million hours.”

That 630,000 developer is up from 300,000 in 2012.

“We’ve doubled in a year and a half,” he said. “We can’t really keep track of the number of games, but we know it’s at least 10,000. We think it’s a lot more.”

Unity’s popularity enables it to make money from a few different resources. First, the company sells Unity Pro licenses to developers. This enables creators to build a game in Unity and then sell it commercially. Once people are into the software building a game, they can go into the Unity asset store to purchase items and things that other people have built. Helgason’s company takes a 30-percent cut of that.

Finally, Unity also makes massive deals with platform holders like Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo that enables independent developers to get Unity Pro for free.

Unity Technologies is the creator of Unity, an intuitive and flexible development platform used to make wildly creative and intelligently interactive 3D and 2D content. The “author once, deploy everywhere” capability ensures developers… read more »

An entrepreneur, visionary, and ex-programmer, David’s job is to lead the team to stardom, while making sure that each step is taken with love and care. In the past David founded and participated in startups in fields such as news & co… read more »

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