The stories behind the stories of 2022: John Riccitiello’s “fucking idiots” gaffe

 

It’s the end of 2022, so let’s get self-indulgent: this week we’re publishing a few personal story highlights from the first year of mobilegamer.biz, and giving you a peek behind the curtain on how they came to be published.

Devs not baking monetisation into the creative process are “fucking idiots”, says Unity’s John Riccitiello

This was by far the most-read story on mobilegamer.biz this year, and got re-reported by countless other games and tech websites. But I can’t claim the glory here – the interview itself was conducted and published by my friends at pocketgamer.biz. I just packaged it up in a spicier manner and distributed it more effectively.

I was down in Brighton for the Develop conference as the news broke around the Unity-Ironsource deal, which I dutifully reported – with some relief, as I recall.

This site is focused on original reporting, so I always have one or two stories written and ready to publish every day. But if something important happens, i’ll hold back those stories and focus on reporting the news. It means I can run something interesting every day, without fail.

That week, however, a couple of stories I had lined up had either fallen through or not quite worked out, so I went down to Brighton with very little in reserve, hoping to get something juicy out of the event. (Nothing juicy came directly out of the event, apart from one story that took another two months to fully materialise – more on that later this week).

The same day as the Unity-Ironsource deal was announced, pocketgamer.biz managed to turn around this interview with Unity CEO Riccitiello and SVP Marc Whitten in double-quick time. Kudos to them – quite a feat to bag an interview about a merger of this scale and publish it the same day.

With everything going on at Develop, the interview was out there in the wild for a full day before I got around to reading it, and when I did, I was amazed at what Riccitiello had said. I took screengrabs and everything. The vital passage is below, after some preamble around how developers might implement Unity and Ironsource’s combined tools:

Unity CEO John Riccitiello. Image credit: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Pocketgamer.biz: Implementing monetisation earlier in the process and conversation is certainly an angle that has seen pushback from some developers.

Riccitiello: Ferrari and some of the other high-end car manufacturers still use clay and carving knives. It’s a very small portion of the gaming industry that works that way, and some of these people are my favourite 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.

Yiiikes. Now, as a contemporary of pocketgamer.biz I naturally respect it and follow its output, but mobilegamer.biz has a different style and ethos, which means I very rarely re-report their stories.

Unless, of course, the CEO of a prominent company worth billions effectively calls some of his customers “fucking idiots”, and no-one seems to have noticed.

The remarks were a little buried in the pocketgamer.biz piece and not referenced at all in the original headline and accompanying tweet upon publication. A full day later, no-one seemed to have picked up the story. So I did, with full, fair and prominent credit and link to the source, as is industry standard.

The tweet directing folks towards the Riccitiello story got 2m impressions. The story got over 38k visitors from all sources – we currently get 20-25k visitors in a month, on average.

The story and in particular the accompanying tweet went bananas. Almost every games publication – consumer and industry-facing – re-reported the remarks, and later, having first tweeted that my story was “clickbait” and “out of full context”, Riccitiello apologised. For a moment there, I thought he might even get fired.

Pocketgamer.biz also later updated their headline to better reflect the furore his comments had caused.

A final fun note on this one: as a brand new site that launched in March of this year, in July our Google search traffic was non-existent. It has taken about six months for Google to even really notice this site exists, despite healthy numbers and notable outlets like The Verge, The Washington Post, IGN, GameSpot, VGC and many others linking to our stories as a source.

But for the first time ever in July, after the Riccitiello story, mobilegamer.biz finally got some organic search traffic.

The search terms? “John Riccitiello” and “Fucking”.