Unity closes two offices over "credible death threat" amid runtime fee and insider trading...

Cal Jeffrey

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Staff member
In brief: Unity Software closed its Austin, Texas, and San Francisco offices on Thursday after receiving what it called a "credible death threat." The closure comes amid controversy surrounding its recent announcement that it would start charging a fee on games made with the Unity game engine and suspicions of insider trading going on just before it released the news.

Bloomberg notes that the company had scheduled a town hall meeting for today to address the concerns regarding the new fee, but it canceled the talk along with the office closures. The company is cooperating with law enforcement and presumably, the offices will only be closed for the day out of safety concerns. However, it did not indicate if or when the town hall would be rescheduled.

The controversy started on Tuesday when Unity told developers they would have to start paying $0.20 per installation once their game hits 200,000 downloads and earns $200,000. Optionally, developers could pay $2,000 per year for the Unity Pro plan, which gives them a higher threshold equating to lower fee percentages. The so-called "runtime fee policy" goes into effect in January 2024.

The announcement immediately fired up developers who took to X (formerly Twitter) en masse to voice complaints. Unity tried to quell the backlash with a lengthy tweet saying that the developers were just "confused and frustrated" about the new policy and that 90 percent of Unity customers would not even be affected. It reiterated that the fee only kicks in once a game reaches 200,000 installs and $200,000.

Massive Monster advised players to pick up its title, Cult of the Lamb, before the end of the year, as it will be pulling the game from stores on January 1 because of the new fee.

Many other developers have urged Unity to roll back or modify the policy so the usage tax does not pummel smaller developers. Many operate on very slim margins and losing two percent or more of their sales stings.

While the new policy is enough to keep the community reeling for weeks, insinuations of insider trading fanned the flames. On Wednesday, news broke that Unity CEO John Riccitiello was among several executives and board members who dumped Unity shares in the weeks leading up to the runtime fee announcement.

According to Guru Focus, Riccitiello sold 2,000 Unity shares on September 6. That amount is not a lot for typical trades, but it caused further scrutiny over his stock activities that revealed he has sold over 50,610 company shares, totaling about $2 million in the last year.

Furthermore, several other executives and board members allegedly dumped large portions of their shares just before the announcement. Over the last year, 49 insider sales and zero insider buys have occurred. Unity President of Growth Tomer Bar-Zeev sold 37,500 shares for $1.4 million on September 1, and board director Shlomo Dovrat dumped 68,454 shares on August 30 for about $2.6 million.

The SEC has not filed charges or opened investigations at this time since legitimate insider trading goes on all the time for various reasons. For instance, executives and employees often exercise options once they mature. While common and perfectly legal, it can look fishy if the shares mature before a company experiences an event affecting its stock price. The news of the new policy is just such a case since it caused an 8-percent dip in share valuation that has yet to rebound fully.

Image credit: Lori Butcher

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Anger I can understand. But never death threats, especially towards people that didn't have a say in such a stupid decision.....
When people's livelihood is threatened, irrationality tends to occur, especially when the cause is pure greed. And if you havent noticed, the last decade+ we have seen most game dev studios go from dedicated hardened geeks to some of the most mentally fragile people alive. How often have we seen devs fly into tantrums over the most basic of criticism?
I have a strong feeling it all got worse due to covid taking in account some things I heard from very different people.
We tried to warn people that locking people up for months, sometimes years on end, was going to cause widespread mental damage to hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Unsurprisingly, the thing that we were ensured would never happen did in fact happen.
Yeah death threats are out of line in pretty much any scenario. Even if the threats are just idle, it's not cool.
OTOH, we have seen, repeatedly, that people will use "credible threats" to justify backing away from social media after they do something that the majority disagree with. It's become a popular method of social media deflection. If these "credible threats" are real, we better see either the receipts or someone arrested, since specific threats of bodily harm or death are illegal, even in the USA. If nothing happens from this, well, that speaks volumes as to how much deflection is involved here.
And now its been confirmed by eurogamer that the police found the threat maker.....it was a unity employee.

LMFAO. Someone just wanted a long weekend and found the opportunity.
It's pretty much standard practice now for companies to claim they are getting death threats to mitigate the backlash from horrible things they do. When every single company, influencer, etc.....claims they are getting death threats right after they do something horrible that results in backlash, it ends up just looking like a "cry wolf" scenario whether it's true or not.