- Unity Technologies recently closed its Austin and San Francisco offices due to a credible death threat.
- This model, set to start in 2024, faced criticism for its potential negative impact on developers.
- The incident highlights the importance of clear communication and understanding stakeholder impact for businesses.
Unity Technologies, a renowned software development company, recently closed down several of its U.S offices after a credible death threat. The abrupt closure impacted offices in Austin, Texas, and San Francisco, California, with the still-to-be-resolved incident coinciding with a company-wide meeting where Unity CEO John Riccitiello was scheduled for a speaking engagement.
An official statement from Unity emphasized that the company's priority was the safety of its employees, saying:
Today, we have been made aware of a potential threat to some of our offices.
We have taken immediate and proactive measures to ensure the safety of our employees. We are closing our offices today and tomorrow that could be potential targets for this threat and are fully cooperating with law enforcement on the investigation."
According to a Bloomberg report, the San Francisco Police was informed about the incident.
In a statement sent to Polygon, an employee had used social media to threaten the employer. This employee reportedly works in an office outside of California.
The threat came on the heels of a significant backlash against Unity due to a contentious change in its business model. Announced on September 12, Unity revealed a new pricing structure that charges developers a fee every time a game made using its engine is installed, once certain revenue or install thresholds are reached. This model, scheduled to take effect from January 1, 2024, has sparked major controversy in the developer community. Developers raised concerns, stating that this new structure is unfavorable to game makers, might punish them for putting their games on sale, or including them in bundles or subscription services.
Several developers and studios expressed their dismay, arguing the new fees are detrimental to businesses and could be seen as a violation of Unity's terms of service. Unity's communication about the change also garnered criticism, with claims that it was poorly communicated and potentially deceptive. Some developers even pledged to move away from Unity's engine unless the decision was reversed, highlighting the significant potential implications for game production timelines.
Amidst the widespread backlash, Unity has attempted to clarify the terms and address these concerns but has given no indication that it will retract the proposed pricing model. Furthermore, Unity's decisions created confusion, especially regarding multiple installation fees. Although a Unity employee initially mentioned that multiple installations would not count towards the fee threshold, the company later said it would. This decision was then reversed once more, illustrating the tumultuous rollout of the new pricing system.
The uproar isn't unprecedented in the gaming industry. The video game industry has a long and storied history of death threats and malicious attacks. For instance, in 2020, Ubisoft Montreal faced an evacuation due to a hoax hostage report. Similarly, in 2022, employees at Destiny 2 developer Bungie received threatening voicemails and texts from a malevolent player.
In a more recent example, authorities got involved when a professional League of Legends player had received death threats from an anonymous user online.
In light of Unity's recent actions, employees are reportedly resigning, which is a tell-tale sign of internal discover over the company's decision-making. But, while the death threat is disappointing if harrowing, its authenticity is doubtful. It isn't unprecedented for certain individuals to concoct an elaborate hoax to paint themselves as the victims and garner sympathy.
Overall, this incident underscores the potential pitfalls businesses face when implementing significant changes. Clear communication and the ability to understand the impact on stakeholders, as well as respond effectively to criticism is vital for any company navigating the complex waters of the modern business environment.